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Julian H. Steward, Editor 

Volume 4 

Prepared in Cooperation With the United States Department of State as a Project 
of the Interdepartmental Committee for Scientific and Cultural Cooperation 





For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U. S. Government Printing Office, 
Washington 25, D. C. 




Smithsonian Institution, 
Bureau of American Ethnology, 

Washington, D. C, June 18, 1945. 

Sir : I have the honor to transmit herewith a manuscript entitled 
"Handbook of South American Indians. Volume 4. The Circum- 
Caribbean Tribes," edited by Julian H. Steward, and to recommend that 
it be published as a bulletin of the Bureau of American Ethnology. 
Very respectfully yours, 

M. W. Stirling, Chie^. 
Dr. Alexander Wetmore, 

Secretary, Smithsonian Institution 




Preface, by Julian H. Steward xv 

Acknowledgments xvi 

' ontributors to Volume 4 xix 

The Circum- Caribbean tribes : An introduction, by Julian H. Steward 1 

The basic Circum-Caribbean culture 2 

Social and religious patterns 2 

Material culture 4 

Origins of the Circum-Caribbean culture 6 

Distribution of the Circum-Caribbean culture 11 

The Sub-Andean tribes of western Colombia 15 

Social and religious patterns 16 

Material culture 17 

The northeastern Sub-Andean tribes 18 

The Cordillera Oriental and Venezuelan Andes 19 

Tribes west of Lake Maracaibo 20 

Tribes of northwestern Venezuela 21 

Tribes of northern Venezuela 22 

Social and religious patterns 22 

Material culture 23 

The Antilles 23 

The Arawak 23 

Social and religious patterns 23 

Material culture 24 

The Carib 25 

Central America 26 

Distribution and antiquity of the Circum-Caribbean culture 26 

Social and religious patterns 28 

Material culture 31 

The Meso-American tribes ii 

Social and religious patterns 33 

Material culture 34 

The Tropical Forest peoples 34 

The Patangoro and their neighbors 34 

The Guayupe and Sae 35 

The Betoi and their neighbors 35 

The Otomac and Guamo 36 

The Achagua and Saliva 37 

The Pacific Coast tribes 38 

The Choco 38 

The Cayapa and Colorado 39 

The hunting and gathering tribes 40 

Tribes of the Orinoco Basin 40 

The Ciboney of the Antilles 41 

Part 1. Central American Cultures 43 

Central American Cultures: An introduction, by Frederick Johnson 43 

Geography 43 

Panama 44 



The Southern Highlands 46 

The Nicaraguan Highlands 48 

The Nicaraguan Lowland 48 

The Eastern Coastal Plain 49 

The Northern Coastal Plain 49 

Tribal divisions and history 49 

The Cuna-Choco Division ■ 49 

The Talamanca Division 51 

The Caribbean Division : East Coast 57 

The Caribbean Division : North Coast 60 

The Northern Highland Division 61 

The Meso- American Division 63 

Bibliography 67 

The archeology of Central America 69 

The archeology of Central America : An introduction, by Wm. Dun- 
can Strong 69 

The archeology of Honduras, by Wm. Duncan Strong 71 

Introduction 71 

The northeast coast region 72 

Environment 12 

Sites and remains 72 

Ceramics 76 

Nonceramic artifacts 81 

The Ulua-Yojoa region 85 

Summary of research 85 

Sites and remains 85 

Ceramics 87 

Nonceramic artifacts 99 

Central and southwestern Honduras 103 

Summary of research 103 

Ethnic correlations in Honduras 112 

The pottery time chart 112 

A consideration of ceramic styles 114 

General considerations 118 

Bibliography 120 

The archeology of Costa Rica and Nicaragua, by Wm. Duncan 

Strong 121 

Introduction 121 

The Pacific region 122 

The Highland region 131 

The Eastern Coastal Plain 138 

Ethnic correlations in Costa Rica and Nicaragua 140 

Bibliography 142 

The archeology of Panama, by Samuel K. Lothrop 143 

Introduction 143 

Dari^n 145 

Code 146 

Veraguas 159 

Chiriqui 161 

Bibliography 167 

The basic cultures of Central America, by Doris Stone 169 

Introduction 169 



The basic Central American cultures and the Q-complex 169 

Costa Rica 170 

Nicaragua 175 

Honduras 177 

El Salvador 181 

Guatemala 184 

Summary and discussion 185 

Speculations 192 

Bibliography 193 

The post-Conquest ethnology of Central America 195 

The post-Conquest ethnology of Central America : An introduction, 

by Frederick Johnson 195 

The Meso- American Division, by Frederick Johnson 199 

Introduction 199 

Culture 200 

Bibliography 204 

The Northern Highland tribes : The Lenca, by Doris Stone 205 

Introduction 205 

Culture 205 

Bibliography 217 

The Caribbean Lowland tribes: The Mosquito, Sumo, Paya, and 

Jicaque, by Paul Kirchhoff 219 

Introduction 219 

Culture 219 

Bibliography 229 

The Caribbean Lov^rland tribes : The Talamanca Division, by Fred- 
erick Johnson 231 

Introduction 231 

Culture 231 

Bibliography 251 

The tribes west and south of the Panama Canal, by Samuel K. 

Lothrop 253 

Introduction 253 

Culture 253 

Bibliography 256 

The Cuna, by David B. Stout 257 

Culture 257 

Bibliography 268 

The Choco, by David B. Stout 269 

Culture 269 

Bibliography 276 

The Cayapa and Colorado, by John Murra 277 

Introduction ^'' 

The Cayapa ^"^i 

Culture 278 

The Colorado 284 

Culture 285 

Bibliography 291 

Anthrc^ological needs and possibilities in Central America, by Wm. Dun- 
can Strong and Frederick Johnson 296 

Bibliography 293 



Part 2. The cultures of northwest South America 297 

Sub-Andean tribes of the Cauca Valley, by Gregorio Hernandez de Alba 

Introduction 297 

History 299 

Tribes of the upper Cauca River 302 

Tribal locations 302 

Culture 303 

Tribes of the North Colombia Highlands 307 

Tribes east of the Cauca River 308 

Tribal locations 308 

Culture 309 

Tribes of the Cauca-Atrato region 313 

Tribal locations 313 

Native culture 314 

The Indians of 1880 320 

The 20th century Catio 321 

Culture 322 

Tribes of the Province of Aburra 326 

Tribal locations 326 

Culture 326 

Bibliography 327 

Tribes of the North Colombia Lowlands, by Gregorio Hernandez de Alba 329 

Introduction 329 

Tribal divisions and locations 329 

History 330 

Culture 332 

Bibliography 338 

The Patangoro and Amani, by Paul Kirchhoff 339 

Introduction 339 

Culture 339 

The northeastern extension of Andean culture, by Alfred Metraux and 

Paul Kirchhoff 349 

Introduction 349 

History 351 

Tribal divisions 352 

Physical appearance 355 

Culture 355 

Bibliography 368 

The Goajiro, by John M. Armstrong and Alfred Metraux 369 

The region 369 

Location and history 369 

Physical appearance 370 

Language 370 

Culture 370 

Bibliography 383 

The Guayupe and Sae, by Paul Kirchhoff 385 

Introduction 385 

Culture 386 

Bibliography 391 

The Betoi and their neighbors, by Gregorio Hernandez de Alba 393 

Tribal locations 393 


The Betoi and their neighbors, by Gregorio Hernandez de Alba (contd.) 

Language 393 

Historical sources 394 

Culture 394 

The Achagua and their neighbors, by Gregorio Hernandez de Alba 399 

Tribal locations 399 

History 400 

Culture 402 

The archeology of Venezuela, by Alfred Kidder H 413 

Introduction 413 

Sources and history of investigation 414 

Regional presentation of cultures 415 

Lower Orinoco River 415 

Middle Orinoco River 417 

Upper Orinoco River 419 

The Llanos 419 

Lake Valencia 420 

Northeast Coast ' 424 

The Northwest 425 

The Andes 429 

Summary and conclusions 434 

Future field work and problems 437 

Bibliography 438 

The Otomac, by Paul Kirchhoff 439 

Introduction 439 

Culture 440 

Bibliography 444 

Food-gathering tribes of the Venezuelan Llanos, by Paul Kirchhoff... . 445 

Introduction 445 

Hunting cultures 446 

The Guahibo and Chiricoa 446 

Introduction 446 

History, sources, and demography 447 

Language 447 

Culture 447 

Bibliography 455 

The Gayon 455 

Bibliography 455 

Fishing cultures 456 

The Yaruro 456 

Introduction 456 

Culture 456 

The Guamontey, Guamo, Taparita, and Atature 463 

Introduction 463 

Culture 465 

Bibliography 468 

The tribes of northwestern Venezuela, by Gregorio Hernandez de Alba. . 469 

Tribal locations 469 

Language 469 

History 469 

Culture 470 



The tribes of north central Venezuela, by Gregorio Hernandez de Alba. . 475 

Tribal locations 475 

History 476 

Culture 476 

The tribes north of the Orinoco River, by Paul Kirchhoff 481 

Introduction 481 

Culture 481 

Part 3. The West Indies 495 

The West Indies : An introduction, by Irving Rouse 495 

The Ciboney, by Irving Rouse 497 

Introduction 497 

Archeology 497 

Culture sequences 499 

History 501 

Sources 503 

The ethnology of the Ciboney, by Pedro Garcia Valdes 503 

Language 503 

Culture 503 

The Arawak, by Irving Rouse 507 

Introduction 507 

Archeology 507 

Culture sequences 510 

History 517 

Sources 520 

Ethnography 521 

The ethnography of Hispaniola : Taino 522 

The ethnography of Hispaniola : Ciguayo 539 

The ethnography of Puerto Rico, by Adolf o de Hostos 540 

Population 540 

Culture 540 

The ethnography of Cuba 542 

Population 542 

Culture 542 

The ethnography of Jamaica 543 

The ethnography of the Bahamas 544 

The ethnography of the Virgin Islands 544 

The ethnography of the Lesser Antilles 545 

The ethnography of Trinidad 545 

The Carib, by Irving Rouse 547 

Introduction 547 

Archeology 547 

History 547 

Sources 548 

Ethnography 549 

Bibliography 565 

Bibliography 567 



1. Ceremonial cache and urn and skull burials, Honduras 108 

2. North Coast Applique style vessels, northeastern Honduras 108 

3. Northeast Coast Honduras pottery types 108 

4. Stone and metal work. Bay Islands, Honduras 108 

5. Honduras ceramic and marble vessels 108 

6. Honduras pottery styles and types 108 

7. Bold Geometric style pottery 108 

8. Ulua Polychrome vessels, Mayoid style, Santa Rita type, Santa Rita, Hon- 108 


9. Yojoa Polychrome vessels. Lake Yojoa, Honduras 108 

10. Yojoa Polychrome and other vessels, Lake Yojoa, Honduras 108 

11. Early ceramic types, Honduras 108 

12. Playa de los Muertos style sherds and figurines, Honduras 108 

13. Stone statue and seats. Central America 140 

14. Stone artifacts from Costa Rica and Nicaragua 140 

15. Stone carvings, Costa Rica 140 

16. Nicoya Polychrome, Costa Rica and Nicaragua 140 

17. Central American goldwork and pottery 140 

18. Central American pottery types 140 

19. Artifacts from Darien, Panama 156 

20. Artifacts from Code, Panama 156 

21. Tripod styles from Costa Rica and Honduras 188 

22. Some basic Central American ceramic types 188 

23. Effigy vessels from Central America 188 

24. Central American pot legs, lugs, stands, figurines 188 

25. Central American ceramic tj'pes 188 

26. Stone seats or metates from Central America 188 

27. Stone peg figures from Costa Rica and Guatemala 188 

28. Stone peg figures from Costa Rica and Guatemala 188 

29. Stone sukia and animal figures from Costa Rica and Honduras 188 

30. Stone balls in the Terraba Plain 188 

31. Petroglyphs, Honduras and Costa Rica 188 

32. Stone grave markers from Honduras 188 

33. Lenca manufactures ^1^ 

34. Lenca Indians ^1^ 

35. Sumo and Mosquito Indians, Nicaragua 228 

36. Sumo manufactures ^^o 

2i7. Guaymi farming and foodstuffs 252 

38. Guaymi fish traps ^^^ 

39. Hip-roofed house of the Guaymi 252 

40. Guaymi shelter and loom weaving ^^^ 

41. Valienti (GuajTni) bags, Panama 252 

42. Guaymi pottery making ^-^^ 

43. Guaymi utensils 252 

44. Southern Guaymi burial 252 

45. Guaymi men in ceremonial costumes 252 

46. Guaymi ceremonies and ceremonial dress 252 

47. Guaymi balseria ceremony 252 

48. Guaymi man '^^ 

49. Cuna artifacts 268 




50. Cuna ceremonial objects 268 

51. Cuna wooden fetishes 268 

52. Cuna mnemonic picture-writing 268 

53. Choco artifacts 276 

54. Choco artifacts 276 

55. Choco artifacts 276 

56. Choco Indians 276 

57. Cayapa houses and village 284 

58. Colorado houses, early 20th century 284 

59. Colorado and Cayapa Indians 284 

60. Colorado and Cayapa Indians 284 

61. "Motilones" (Macoa, i.e., Chake) village life 364 

62. "Motilones" Indians 364 

63. "Motilones" (Macoa, i.e., Chake) carrying devices 364 

64. "Motilones" (Macoa, i.e., Chake) Indians 364 

65. "Motilonps" costumes 364 

66. "Motilones" weaving 364 

67. "Motilones" (Macoa, i.e., Chake) crafts 364 

68. "Motilones" (Macoa, i.e., Chake) musical instruments and fire making.. 364 

69. "Motilones" Indians 364 

70. "Motilones" (Macoa, i.e., Chake) Indians 364 

71. "Motilones" (Macoa, i.e., Chake) Indians of the Sierra de Perija 364 

72. Goajiro Indians 380 

73. Early and late Ronquin pottery, Venezuela 428 

74. Pottery from various Venezuelan regions 428 

75. Pottery and stoneware of the Andean region, Venezuela 428 

76. Venezuelan archeological sites 428 

n. Guahibo Indians 468 

78. Guahibo Indians, Sikuani tribe 468 

79. Landscapes of Hispaniola 500 

80. Cuban landscapes 500 

81. The Maniabon hills, Cuba 500 

82. Cuban landscapes 500 

83. Antillean landscapes 500 

84. Ciboney artifacts from Cuba 500 

85. Ciboney artifacts from Haiti 500 

86. Arawak sites in the West Indies 532 

87. Arawak pottery from the West Indies 532 

88. Arawak stone and bone work from the West Indies 532 

89. Arawak shell and woodwork from the West Indies 532 

90. Arawak history and ethnography in Hispaniola 532 

91. Arawak ethnology and plants in Hispaniola 532 

92. Arawak dance to the earth goddess 532 

93. Carib Indians and artifacts 564 

94. Carib manufactures 564 

95. Carib war dance 564 

96. Cuban descendants of the Arawak 564 

97. Cuban descendants of the Arawak 564 

98. Carib descendants 564 



1. Sketch map of the Plan Grande site, Bonacca, Bay Islands, Honduras. . 73 

2. Incised design on erect stone at ceremonial site on Claura River, north- 75 

eastern Honduras 

3. North Coast Applique style vessel forms, Bay Islands, Honduras 11 

4. Bold Geometric style, San Marcos type pottery. Bay Islands, Honduras. . 78 

5. Bay Island Polychrome vessel forms and carved steatite image, Bay 

Islands, Honduras °0 

6. Bay Island Polychrome pottery, Bay Islands, Honduras 82 

7. Sketch map of the lower Ulua and Chamelecon Rivers, Honduras 84 

8. Sketch map showing archeological sites around north end of Lake Yojoa, 

Honduras 86 

9. Stratification at Playa de los Muertos, Honduras 94 

10. Vessel forms of the Playa de los Muertos style, Ulua River, Honduras. . 95 

11. Vessel forms of the Playa de los Muertos style, Ulua River, Honduras. . . 97 

12. Honduras stone sculptures 105 

13. Plan of Tenampua, Honduras 109 

14. Pottery vessel from Tenampua, Honduras UO 

15. Temporal relationship of ceramic styles and types. Northeast Coast and 

Ulua- Yojoa regions, Honduras ^^^ 

16. Mounds on Zapatero Island, Nicaragua 122 

17. Stone sculptures from Costa Rica and Nicaragua 123 

18. Burials at Las Guacas, Costa Rica l25 

19. Costa Rican and Nicaraguan pottery of the Pacific area 126 

20. Costa Rican stonework 129 

21. Jade pendants, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica 130 

22. Costa Rica stone spear-thrower pegs 130 

23. Costa Rican carved stone slabs 133 

24. Costa Rica and Nicaraguan pottery of the Highland area 134 

25. Metate from Cartago, Costa Rica 137 

26. Burial mound and general map of Las Mercedes, Costa Rica 139 

27. Code grave plan 148 

28. Code stone ax 149 

29. Color key for Code pottery. 149 

30. Early Polychrome, Code ISO 

31. An Early Polychrome spouted effigy vessel, Code 150 

32. Early Polychrome, Code 151 

Zi. Early Polychrome, Code 152 

34. Late Polychrome, Code 153 

35. Late Polychrome, Code 154 

36. Miscellaneous Code pottery types 155 

Vl . Code ivory and goldwork 156 

38. Code ear ornament 156 

39. Code gold pendants 157 

40. Gold and emerald pendants 158 

41. Pictograph, Chiriqui country 161 

42. Chiriqui grave types 163 

43. Chiriqui stone metates 163 

44. Chiriqui stone metates or stools 162 



45. Chiriqui stone statues 164 

46. Chiriqui pottery types 165 

47. Chiriqui pottery 166 

48. Lenca house 207 

49. Lenca woman's dress, Santa Elena 209 

50. Fundamental framework of Southern Guaymi hip-roofed house 235 

51. Framework of Southern Guaymi hip-roofed house with rafters added. . . 235 

52. Guaymi household furnishings 237 

53. Guaymi applique clothing designs 239 

54. Guaymi pottery 242 

55. Guaymi stone tobacco pipes 243 

56. Guaymi technique in making beadwork collars 244 

57. Guaymi burial 248 

58. Cuna sea turtle decoy 257 

59. Cuna painted balsa planks 262 

60. Cuna musical instruments 265 

61. Choc6 wooden seats and headrests 269 

62. Choco body ornamentation 270 

63. Choco coiled basket 271 

64. Choco pottery 272 

65. Choco pottery 272 

66. Choco artifacts 274 

67. "Motilones" ax-flute 366 

68. Incised pottery, Los Barrancos, Venezuela 416 

69. Pottery adornos, Los Barrancos. Venezuela 416 

70. Pottery from Lake Valencia 416 

71. Lake Valencia pottery adornos and shell objects, Lake Valencia Phase. . . 416 

72. Lake Valencia figurine, Valencia Phase 416 

73. Early Ronquin painted pottery 418 

74. Lake Valencia figurine, Valencia Phase 423 

75. Carache painted pottery 427 

76. Pottery of the northwest Venezuela region 428 

n. Artifacts of the Andean region, Venezuela 431 

78. Guahibo house (boo) 449 

79. Guahibo house (sorueto) 450 



1. Culture areas treated in Volume 4 xx 

2. The native tribes of Central America 50 

3. The archeology of Central America 72 

4. The archeological cultures of Panama in the 16th century 144 

5. The contemporary tribes of Central America 196 

6. The native tribes of Venezuela and lowland Colombia 350 

7. The archeology of Venezuela 416 

8. The tribes and cultures of the Antilles 498 

9. The aboriginal provinces of Cuba 502 

10. The aboriginal provinces of Hispaniola 529 

11. The principal villages of Puerto Rico and their chiefs 541 


By Julian H. Steward 

It has always been supposed that the cultures of the Antilles and 
northern Venezuela should be classed with those of the Tropical Forests. 
Northern Colombia and Central America have been puzzling, however, 
for, though archeology reveals the presence in these areas of many elements 
of Mexican and Andean civilizations, the modern tribes are definitely 
Tropical Forest in character. The difificulty has been that the ethnology is 
known mainly from fairly recent studies of the few extremely deculturated 
tribes who remain and that the archeology has not been linked to the 
historic peoples except in a few instances. 

Lothrop's summary (1937) of the ethnography found in early docu- 
ments of the Conquest period of Panama and his archeological work at the 
late pre-Conquest site of Code furnished cultural evidence of peoples who 
can scarcely be recognized as the precursors of the modern Cima. More 
recently, Kirchhoff has undertaken a thorough perusal of all the available 
early chronicles bearing on the peoples around the Caribbean Sea, and he 
points out that, far from having a primitive culture such as that observed 
among their descendants of the past century, these tribes were actually 
highly developed. He finds also that the general pattern and content of 
these cultures were strikingly similar in most of the Circum-Caribbean 
area. It was mainly at his suggestion that the editor segregated the articles 
on the tribes of this area from those of volume 3 of the Handbook and 
grouped them in the present volume. 

As the cultural relationships of tribes and groups of tribes cannot always 
be knowm until all the articles are assembled and viewed as a whole there 
are several instances, as seen in retrospect, in which tribes are placed in the 
wrong volume or in the wrong part of a volume. The Circum-Caribbean 
culture, or, as it is called in Colombia, the Sub-Andean culture, certainly 
includes the tribes of the South Colombia Highlands and of the Sierra de 
Santa Marta who are described in Volume 2 on the Andean civilizations. 
In fact, the Chibcha of Colombia are not properly classifiable as true 
Andean. Had it been possible to divide the volumes on a consistent 
cultural basis, the Choco, Cayapa, and Colorado of western, lowland Colom- 
bia and Ecuador, the peoples west of Lake Maracaibo, and those of the 
lowlands of eastern Colombia should have been included with the Tropical 
Forest tribes who are described in Volume 3, and the hunting and gather- 
ing tribes of the Orinoco Basin and the Cihoney of the West Indies might 



have accompanied the Marginal peoples who are treated in the same 

The archeology is also somewhat divided between volumes. Special 
articles on the archeology of Central America, Venezuela, and the Antilles 
are presented in the present volume along with the ethnography. The 
archeology of Colombia, however, has been presented as a whole in Volume 
2, although some of the prehistoric remains are undoubtedly attributable to 
the tribes encountered by the conquistadors. 

One of the greatest difficulties in preparing the present volume was the 
direct result of the paucity of information on both the archeology and 
ethnography. As few of the aboriginal tribes survive today, ethnologists 
have largely ignored the area. Archeologists have done little but make 
surveys, except in the West Indies. It was consequently extremely dif- 
ficult to find contributors who had a sufficient background of information 
to prepare articles without an enormous amount of original research, 
especially in the chronicles of the Conquest. Some groups of tribes were 
nearly omitted for want of someone who could do the necessary research. 
On tlie whole, the early sources have been used considerably less than was 
hoped, but the coverage of the area has been completed. The editor is 
especially grateful to Dr. Hernandez de Alba for preparing last-minute 
summaries of the tribes of western Colombia and of the Caqnctio, Achagua, 
and others in Venezuela. Hernandez de Alba's articles are not exhaustive 
studies ; they are merely preliminary essays hurriedly written to fill in 
gaps in the Handbook coverage in order to account for the more important 
tribes and to give the general features of their culture. 

The Circum-Caribbean area is not only the least known of all South 
America, but it is perhaps the most important to problems of native 
American culture history. The editor and contributors feel with con- 
siderable satisfaction that the articles have succeeded in bringing a great 
deal of order to the previously confused anthropological picture of this 
area and that a basis is provided for future research on many fundamental 
problems that the Handbook helps point out. 


The editor wishes to express his gratitude to the Handbook staff and 
the Smithsonian editorial staflf which have performed the enormous task 
of preparing the manuscripts, illustrations, and bibliography of this 

For permission to publish the illustrations used in this volume we are 
grateful to the Museo Nacional, San Jose, Costa Rica; the Peabody 
Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology of Harvard University ; the Museo 
Nacional of Tegucigalpa, Honduras ; the American Museum of Natural 
History, New York City ; the Bureau of American Ethnology, Smithsonian 


Institution, Washington, D. C. ; and the American Geographical Society, 
New York City. We acknowledge also the kindness of the following 
individuals who furnished photographs for illustrations to the articles of 
this volume: Mrs. Doris Stone, Monseigneur Federico Lunardi, Dr. 
Frederick Johnson, Mr. Gerard Reichel-Dolmatoflf, Dr. Alexander Wet- 
more, Llewelyn Williams, Batista Venturello, and the late John Verrill 
and Theodoor De Booy. 





Armstrong, John M., Washington, D. C. 

Gregorio Hernandez de Alba/ Bogota, Colombia. 

Adolfo de Hostos, Official Historian of Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto 

Frederick Johnson, The Robert S. Peabody Foundation for Archaeology, 
Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass. 

Alfred Kidder II, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, 
Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. 

Paul Kirch hoff, Escuela Nacional de Antropologia, Instituto Nacional 
de Antropologia e Historia, Mexico, D. F. 

Samuel K. Lothrop, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, 
Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. 

Alfred Metraux,^ Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C. 

John Murra, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago, 
Chicago, III. 

Irving Rouse, Department of Anthropology, Peabody Museum of Nat- 
ural History, Yale University, New Haven, Conn. 

Julian H. Steward,^ Institute of Social Anthropology, Smithsonian 
Institution, Washington, D. C. 

Doris Stone, San Jose, Costa Rica. 

David B. Stout,* United States Naval Reserve. 

Wm. Duncan Strong, Department of Anthropology, Columbia Uni- 
versity, New York, N. Y. 

Pedro Garcia Valdes, Pinar del Rio, Cuba. 

1 Present address: Director, Instituto Etnol6gico de Popayan, Universidad del Cauca, Popayan, 

^ Present address: Department of Social Affairs, United Nations. 

* Present address : Department of Anthropology, Columbia University, New York, N. Y. 

* Present address: Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Syracuse University, Syracuse, 
N. Y. 





90 to '0 (iO 

40 30 

Map 1. — Culture areas treated in Volume 4. (Stippled, the Tropical Forest Tribes, 
Volume 3; hachure down-slanted to left, the Andean Civilizations, Volume 2; and 
hachure down-slanted to right, the Marginal Tribes, Volume 1.) 



By Julian H. Steward 

The tribes described in the present volume are on the whole perhaps 
the least known ethnographically of any in the areas covered by the 
Handbook. Whether insular or on the mainland, they were readily 
accessible from the coast and were quickly overrun by the Spanish con- 
querors. The great majority of them have long been extinct culturally 
if not racially. Practically all that survive today were dislocated from 
their aboriginal habitats to new and often drastically different regions, 
and for 400 years they have been subject to influence not only from the 
Spaniards but from the descendants of Negro slaves who penetrated most 
of the Caribbean islands and coast. 

In the Colombian Highland and North Coast Lowland the tribes have 
entirely vanished as cultural entities, and the only peoples now classed as 
Indians are a few refugee groups in the low rain forests of the Atrato 
River and the Pacific coast regions, the much acculturated, cattle-raising 
Goajiro on the Goajira Peninsula, some scattered primitive groups in the 
llanos and jungle on the western tributaries of the upper Orinoco River 
in eastern Colombia, and various culturally modified tribes around Lake 
Maracaibo. In Venezuela the descendants of the aborigines north of the 
Orinoco River are much mixed racially and have lost most of their native 
culture, the main exception being a considerable number of Warraii in the 
swamps of the Orinoco Delta. The Antillean tribes may be said to be 
extinct. In Central America the principal surviving Indians are the Cuna 
of Panama, a few remnant groups in Costa Rica, the Mosquito and their 
neighbors of the lowlands of eastern Nicaragua, and strongly Hispanicized 
Indians of Honduras, especially the Lenca. 

The chroniclers of the Conquest left relatively few and very fragmentary 
accounts of these tribes, though it is probable that more systematic utiliza- 
tion of their writings, both published and archival, will supply fuller 
pictures of aboriginal ethnology. Few of the surviving tribes have been 
visited by ethnologists. Professional studies have been made, though not 
all of them have been published, only of the Lenca, Guaymi, Cuna, ChocS, 
Cayapa, Cdgaba, lea, Goajiro, Maeoa (Chake or "Motilones"), Yaruro, 
and Warrau. 


The Circum-Caribbean area has many archeological remains including 
mounds, burials, stone sculpture, ceramics, metallurgy, and other evidences 
of a rich culture. South of the Maya frontier in Honduras, however, these 
have received little more than superficial surveys. Code in Panama and 
Tairona and San Agustin in Colombia (the last two described in vol. 2 of 
the Handbook) are exceptions. Only the Antilles have been worked with 
any thoroughness. Elsewhere the remains have not been dated sequentially 
in relationship to one another, and few have been identified with tribes 
occupying the regions at the Conquest. These materials, therefore, must 
be used with great caution in rounding out the ethnographic picture, for 
many of them may have great antiquity. 

A comparison of data from the modern tribes with those from the 
earlier chroniclers and from archeology shows that all but the very back- 
ward and isolated tribes have suffered drastic changes. Gone are the 
intensive horticulture, the dense population, the large villages, the class- 
structured society, the mounds, temples, idols, and priests, the warfare, 
cannibalism and human trophies, the elaborate death rites, and even the 
technological and esthetic refinements evidenced in the early metallurgy, 
weaving, ceramics, and stone sculpture. The modern tribes who retain a 
predominantly aboriginal culture have come to resemble the Tropical 
Forest tribes (Handbook, vol. 3) rather than their own ancestors. They 
carry on small-scale slash-and-burn farming, and many of them now hunt 
and fish more than they till the soil. They live in small villages, weave 
simple cloth, and make only plain pots. Their society is unstratified, their 
religious cults are scarcely remembered, and the principal survival of 
former days is the shaman. 



The tribes carried on intensive farming, which outranked hunting, 
gathering, and fishing in its productiveness and which supported a dense 
population and large villages. The typical community was a large, com- 
pact, planned village of several hundred to several thousand persons. It 
consisted of pole-and-thatch houses arranged in streets and around plazas, 
and it was surrounded by a palisade. In the village were temples, special 
residences for chiefs, and storehouses. 

1 Dr. Paul Kirchhoff, who has been engaged in a thorough study of early accounts of the tribes 
around the Caribbean Sea, called attention to the fact that at the time of the Conquest there was 
great similarity between most of the tribes, attesting close historical connection. Unfortunately, 
his study could not be completed in time to utilize the results in the Handbook, but it is hoped that 
he may soon publish his detailed comparative survey of these peoples. The present summary is 
essentially a synthesis of the data in this volume and in the second volume of the Handbook, and it 
should be considered in connection with the comparable summary of the cultures of the Tropical 
Forest tribes given in volume 3 of the Handbook. 


Society was characteristically stratified into three or four classes. The 
village chief stood at the social pinnacle, and in some areas he ruled over 
federations of villages or tribes. Characteristically, he lived in a large 
house, received tribute, had many wives and retainers (in Colombia he 
married his full sister, as among the Inca), wore special insignia and orna- 
ments, was carried by his subjects in a litter, and at death his body was 
either mummified or desiccated and placed in a special house or temple, 
or it was buried, accompanied by wives and servants who were stupefied 
and interred ahve (fig. 27), and often the chief's image was placed on the 
grave. There was rarely an organized priesthood, for in most of these 
tribes the shaman, and in some the chief, functioned as intermediary be- 
tween the people and their gods. Similarly, the noble class tended to 
merge with that of the chiefs, except where extreme stratification occurred. 

The basic social arrangement would have been one of chiefs and common 
people except for extreme development of warfare, which served the social 
hierarchy in several ways. Captive men were usually put to death for 
cannibalistic feasts and for human trophies, both of which enhanced their 
captor's prestige. Women were usually annexed to their captor's house- 
hold, either as wives or servants, and their number was a measure of their 
master's social standing. Wealth was a major factor in the status of 
chiefs and nobles, and it was produced by these large households, together 
with some tribute from commoners and even from other tribes. It would 
seem, however, that male captives were seldom kept as permanent slaves 
except among the Antillean Arawak. Their ultimate fate and even that of 
the children they might breed in their captor's tribe was to be killed and 
eaten or sacrificed. Human sacrifice, therefore, made warfare also an 
important adjunct to religion in the Central American and Colombian 

Social status was thus not entirely hereditary but depended partly upon 
individual achievement in warfare. Some Central American chiefs were 
elected. In many tribes shamans had great power. So far as status was 
hereditary in Colombia and Central America, titles and property tended 
to pass in the matrilineal line, from a man to his nephew, and in some 
cases matrilineal clans were interwoven with social classes. Sexual in- 
version of men, probably connected with shortage of women caused by 
polygyny, was common. 

Religion centered around the temple cult. The temple was a special 
structure (it is uncertain how frequently it was set on a mound), which 
sheltered idols (pi. 89, fe) to which offerings were made. Instead of a 
special organized priesthood, which was more common in Central America 
and may have come from the Meso-American tribes, the shaman seems 
usually to have been mediator with the deities; particularly he served as 
oracle and made sacrifices. In the Antilles, however, the Arawakan 
chief performed this function. The gods which were supplicated by the 


Circum-Caribbean peoples are not clearly described, but those mentioned 
in myths and occasionally in ritual are usually celestial, the sun and moon 
being especially prominent and the stars frequently named. There is 
occasional evidence of a jaguar cult both in religious practices and in art 

Considerable preoccupation with the dead is manifest in burial prac- 
tices, and ancestors or ghosts are commonly named among supernatural 
spirits involved in religious beliefs. Urn burial (pi. 1, bottom) is Circum- 
Caribbean, and burial mounds occur everywhere but in the Antilles. 
Where archeological sequences are known these two methods seem to 
belong to fairly recent periods. Virtually all tribes disposed of a de- 
ceased chief with considerable ceremony, either desiccating the body 
(Antillean Arawak, where he became a god and temple idol ; also, the 
Cauca-Atrato region of Colombia and Darien and Code in Panama) or 
embalming it. When the chief was buried some of his retainers and wives 
were stupefied and interred with him, a practice found in all three areas. 


Several facts indicate the importance of farming among these tribes as 
compared with that of the Tropical Forest. Fields seem to have been 
much larger and more permanent, resembling plantations rather than the 
frequently shifting, slash-and-burn plots. Hunting and fishing were 
secondary, and, although the cultures rim the Caribbean Sea, few settle- 
ments were actually on the coast; by contrast, the Tropical Forest vil- 
lages were characteristically riparian and coastal. Circum-Caribbean men 
seem to have devoted proportionately much more effort to farming than 
to hunting and fishing, and in many tribes they performed tasks of cul- 
tivation that elsewhere fall to women. By inference, the much larger and 
more permanent Circum-Caribbean villages must have required a more 
assured food supply. 

Domesticated plants varied somewhat, and the greatest number of 
species was found in northern Colombia, where, in addition to maize, 
sweet manioc or yuca, beans, sweetpotatoes, and peppers, which were the 
usual staples, the tribes grew many fruits and cacao. Bitter manioc had 
a very limited distribution, its spread in this area evidently having been 

Hunting and fishing were practiced, and fish nets, fishhooks, fish 
drugs, harpoons (pi. 56, right), spears, stone axes, and bows and arrows 
(unfeathered among several tribes) were general in the area. As in parts 
of the Amazon Basin, the bow and arrow had evidently spread at the 
expense of the spear and spear thrower; these weapons have a strong 
negative correlation. Arrow poison was Circum-Caribbean with a few 
gaps, and the poison was generally of animal-derived, putrified ingredi- 
ents in contrast to the vegetable poisons used elsewhere in South America. 


The more important technological traits were: loom-weaving (pi. 40) 
of domesticated cotton, but ornamentation of cloth often by painting 
rather than by woven-in patterns; twilled and woven basketry (pi, 54, e, 
f) ; developed ceramics, especially with plastic, applied, and incised 
decoration, and in zoomorphic, anthropomorphic, and tripod forms; dug- 
out canoes and water travel (most developed on the South American, 
Panamanian, and Antillean coasts; somewhat less so in the Sub- Andean 
areas and the remainder of Central America, where overland travel by 
roads was more characteristic) : and stone axes, slings, and the weapons 
mentioned above. Metallurgy was best developed in Colombia and 
Panama (pi. 20; figs. 37-40), where gold and copper were smelted and 
alloyed, but gold was probably worked in a fev*' other parts of Central 
America, and in the Antilles gold was taken from placer mines. Gold 
objects, however, reached all tribes by trade. 

Some technologies which characterize the Marginal tribes in various 
parts of South America survive with a restricted distribution among 
Circum-Caribbean tribes. The use of wild basts and a netting technique 
for making hammocks and carrying-bags is found among the Lenca and 
Talamanca, in northern Venezuela, in the region west of Lake Maracaibo, 
and probably among the Antillean Arazvak. Coiled basketry is reported 
nowhere except among the Choco (fig. 63). Bark cloth (pi. 53, d, e) 
extends from the western Amazon through the Torn and Chanco of the 
Cauca River and the tribes of the North Colombian Lowland to the 
Talamanca Division and Caribbean Lowland tribes in Central America, 
and stone bark-beaters are found archeologically (pi. 14, d, e) somewhat 
beyond this distribution in Nicaragua and northeastern Honduras, but they 
are comparatively late in the Maya sequence. There was also extensive 
use of decorated calabash containers (pi. 54, c), a Tropical Forest trait 
which tends to have a somewhat negative correlation with elaborated 

Garments were made of woven cotton, the most common being the 
woman's apron and the man's breechclout, but various mantles or cloaks 
were also worn. The skull was artificially deformed, usually frontally or 
fronto-occipitally, and the nose and ears, but not the lips, were pierced 
for ornaments. Ornaments were made of gold, even where gold was not 
worked, and of stone (precious and semiprecious stones in Central 
America), shell, and other materials. 

In food preparation, the most common utensils used were stone metates, 
mortars, potter}' jars and griddles, and babracots. 

Among items of household furniture, carved wooden and stone stools 
(pis. 26, 49, a, b; 88, /; figs. 43, 44) were characteristic, the latter taking 
elaborate animal forms in the archeological sites of coastal Ecuador and 
Central America. The platform bed occurred throughout the area, but, 


as in the Montana east of the Andes, it seemingly was being replaced by 
the hammock in lowland areas; in most tribes both were found. 

Among esthetic and recreational elements were chicha and chicha 
troughs (pi. 62), tobacco, coca, some form of game with a ru,bber ball 
which was probably played on special courts, hollow-log drums, skin 
drums (pi. 54, a), rattles, shell trumpets, panpipes, and flutes (pi. 68, 
top, left). 


To understand the origins of the Circum-Caribbean culture it is neces- 
sary first to classify its general structure and content with reference to 
other South American cultures. Considered in general terms, South 
American cultures may be classed roughly in four types : ( 1 ) the hunting 
and gathering, or Marginal; (2) the Tropical Forest; (3) the Circum- 
Caribbean and Sub- Andean ; and (4) the Andean. 

The Marginal tribes had a sociopolitical structure, which lacked classes 
and was based essentially on kinship ties, and a material culture, which 
lacked certain key technologies found among the other three groups. 
They carried on no farming and, if ceramics, basketry, and weaving were 
present, their pots were crude, their baskets twined or coiled, and their 
fabrics twined or netted. The other three groups had farming, ceramics, 
twilled basketry, and loom weaving, and they differed from one another 
in the variety and esthetic patterning of their products rather than in the 
essential processes. 

In addition, the Circum-Caribbean and Andean peoples resembled each 
other and differed from those of the Tropical Forest in their sociopolitical 
and religious patterns. Highly productive farming in the Andes and 
around the Caribbean Sea made possible a dense population and large 
villages which formed the basis of a class-structured society with chiefs, 
nobles, commoners, and slaves. In parts of Guiana and among the coastal 
and river Tupi, where resources of the sea and rivers supplemented 
farming, and in certain tribes of the Mojos-Chiquitos area of eastern 
Bolivia, a tendency to a similar class-structured society is evident. 
Characteristically, however, the Tropical Forest peoples, like the Marginal 
tribes, had small villages and an unstratified society, each community con- 
sisting of an extended lineage or being organized on other kinship lines. 
The Andean and Circum-Caribbean tribes also had a developed temple- 
priest-idol cult, whereas Tropical Forest religion, more like that of the 
Marginal peoples, centered around shamanistic practices, with only a few 
group ceremonies conducted by the shaman. 

The Circum-Caribbean tribes differed from the civilized peoples of the 
Andes and Mexico in the elaboration of the basic sociopolitical and reli- 
gious patterns. Among the latter, social classes were more complicated, 
more fixed by heredity, and more strongly endogamous. In the Circum- 


Caribbean area status was somewhat mobile and, though hereditary rank 
was not absent, status often could be attained through warfare. The 
civilized peoples had achieved political states, with rulers of dominions 
and even empires, and their warfare was directed toward conquest and 
tribute. The Circum-Caribbean tribes had only incipient states, and war- 
fare furthered personal ambition rather than political ends. Its purpose 
was cannibalism, display of human trophies, capture of female slaves, and, 
in some cases, taking of sacrificial victims. In religion, Mexico and the 
Andes had succeeded in separating shamanism from temple worship, and 
they had a special class of priests dedicated to community worship in 
temples. The Circum-Caribbean peoples also had temples, but their 
shamans performed not only as priests but also as medicine men. 

In their material arts the civilized peoples of Mexico and Peru excelled 
mainly in the elaboration of the processes which they shared with the 
Circum-Caribbean tribes. The greater variety of crops and better methods 
of cultivation made their farming more productive. Their pottery was 
better made and esthetically far superior, especially in painted decoration ; 
their weaving involved many special techniques; and their handling of 
stones, whether in construction or in sculpture, outranked that of the 
Circum-Caribbean peoples. The Andes also had metallurgy, which 
became part of the Circum-Caribbean culture, and domesticated animals, 
which did not. The Circum-Caribbean cultures are distinguished from 
the civilized peoples not only by their lack of the latter's elaborations 
but also by their possession of certain material items probably derived 
from the Tropical Forest. 

Other embellishments that distinguish the civilized peoples from those 
of the Circum-Caribbean are certain intellectual accomplishments, such 
as quipus and scales in Peru and writing and astronomy in Mexico. 
Some Andean elaborations reached all the Circum-Caribbean peoples, and 
others reached those of Colombia and Venezuela, who are called sub- 
Andean to distinguish them from the peoples of Central America and the 
Antilles. Certain Mexican elaborations similarly reached Central 

The classification of South American cultures into four general types 
has developmental implications. Hypotheses concerning the origin and 
spread of the traits and complexes, however, must take into account the 
ecological adaptations of human societies through exploitative techniques 
to a variety of natural environments. 

That the Andean and Mexican civilizations differ from the Circum- 
Caribbean culture more in elaboration than in essential form or content 
means that they grew out of something generally similar to it and that 
each acquired its own emphasis. It must be postulated, therefore, that a 
Formative Period culture once extended from Mexico to the Andes, and 
perhaps farther. This culture appears to have been an essentially High- 


land one, though in certain localities it proba,bly incorporated elements, 
particularly material ones, that were more especially adapted to the tropi- 
cal rain forests. 

To judge from the Circum-Caribbean culture, the Formative Period 
culture had the following general characteristics : There were fairly large 
and permanent communities that rested upon adequate subsistence, prin- 
cipally farming. Society was characteristically class-structured , and 
there may have been incipient states, though the Circum-Caribbean level 
of organization would suggest that warfare was directed more toward 
trophy taking (mainly head and bone trophies) and cannibalism, both 
being means of gaining social prestige, than toward conquest and tribute, 
features that go with a class system that is fixed by heredity. That chief- 
tainship was well developed is implied in the complex early burial types 
found archeologically in many regions ; elaborate burial for the chief is a 
feature of the Circum-Caribbean culture. In religion there was a temple- 
priest complex, but the shaman probably performed the priestly functions. 
The gods may have been represented by idols. A very wide inter- 
American distribution suggests that the principal deities were celestial 
ones, that place and animal spirits were important, that human sacrifice 
may have been practiced, and that offertories and shrines were used. 

A fairly adequate subsistence based particularly on maize farming in 
the Formative Period is implied not only by the known antiquity and 
wide distribution of maize but by the evident size and stability of many 
early archeological sites. Agriculture was becoming man's task, and 
hunting and fishing were diminishing in relative importance. The latter, 
however, were practiced locally, and, to judge by their wide distribution 
in the hemisphere, devices available for hunting included traps, nets, 
snares, deadfalls, pitfalls, spears, and spear throwers, and for fishing in- 
cluded drugs, hooks, and nets. Hunting and fishing, however, affected 
the general patterning of these cultures only insofar as local abundance 
of certain species augmented or took the place of farming as the basis for 
a dense population and stable communities. 

There is archeological evidence that construction of mounds, ela.borate 
graves, and possibly of temples and roads were carried on in the Forma- 
tive Period. Such features in turn presuppose fairly organized, stable 

Inter-American distributions, both archeological and ethnological, 
show that the essential technologies of the Formative Period included 
ceramics, especially with plastic and incised treatment, loom weaving, 
domesticated cotton, netting, stone metates, stone grinding and polishing, 
and coiled basketry. 

On the basis also of archeological and ethnological distributions other 
material items available to the Formative Period culture, though not 
necessarily part of it in all localities, were : breechclouts, aprons or wrap- 

Vol. 4] 



around skirts, cloaks and mantles, sandals, ear and nose ornaments, neck- 
laces, head deformation, body paint, tattoo, featherwork, mirrors, stone 
axes, wooden and stone-head clubs, panpipes, single-head skin drums, 
flutes, and rattles. 

As the New World civilizations developed from the Formative Period 
culture, each acquired specialized features and styles ; Mexico became 
readily distinguishable from the Andes, and subareas of each became dis- 
tinguishable from one another. It is at present difficult to ascertain to 
what extend localities differed in the occurrence of the essential Formative 
Period features and in the stylistic handling of them. Archeology has so 
emphasized style as a criterion of prehistoric cultural differences that 
localities may well appear much more unlike than they really were. 

The Circum-Caribbean culture corresponds to the postulated Formative 
Period culture in the presence of the essential ecological adaptations, the 
socioreligious patterns, and the technologies and traits of material culture. 
Ti also has special traits and specialized handling of traits that are peculiar 
to the Mexican and Andean civilizations. In addition, it has several 
material items that are more particularly associated with a tropical rain 
forest environment. The following chart shows the interareal linkage of 
Circum-Caribbean traits with Mexico, the Andes, and the Tropical Forest ; 
also, differences. 

Linkages of Elements in the Circum-Caribbean Area ' 

Cull lire 


Soufh American 
Tropical Forest 



Tropical fruits 
(plus maize, po- 
tatoes, quinoa. 


Domesticated duck 
Meat smoked on the 


Houses and furni- 

Platform bed 
Stone stool 

Pole - and - thatch con- 
Pile house 
Communal house 
Palisaded village 
Wooden stool 

Wooden stool 

Clothing and or- 

Penis cover 


Leather sandal* 



Bark cloth* 
Decorated calabashes 

Bark cloth* 


Mace-head club* 

Vegetable arrow 

Pellet gun or blowgun 

Animal arrow 


Social traits 

Chief's littert 

Captives for canni- 

Ritual canna- 

1 Elements marked with an asterisk are limited to South and Central America; those marked with 
a dagger to South America and the Antilles. (See also Kidder II, 19^0; Nordenskiold, 1930; 
Kroeber, 1939; Lothrop, 1940.) 



[B.A.E. Bull. 143 

Linkages of 

Elements in the 

CiRCUM- Caribbean Area 

* — Continued 



South American 
Tropical Forest 


Religious traits 


Stone-cist grave* 


or desiccation 
of body 

Burial of retain- 
ers with chief 

Mound burial* 

Stone-cist grave 

Ritual incense* 



Human sacrifice for 


Esthetic and rec- 
reational traits 

Alter-ego mono- 

Chontales mono- 

Jaguar stool 

stone slab* 

Pottery ocarina* 

Ball game with court 



Wooden chicha trough 

Hollow-log drum 

Ball game with 

Chicha (pulque) 

Hollow-log drum 

* Elements marked with an asterisk are limited to South and Central America; those marked with 
a dagger to South America and the Antilles. (See also Kidder II, 1940; Nordenskiold, 1930; 
Kroeber, 1939; Lothrop, 1940.) 

This list shows that the preponderant linkage of Central America is with 
South America and inferentially that at least after the Formative Period 
the cultural flow in Central America was predominantly from south to 
north. The occurrence of Chihchan languages through Panama and Costa 
Rica north to the Ulua-Sumo-M osquito group seems clear evidence of 
tribal migrations from South America, and the failure of a number of 
Central and South American ethnographic traits, such as coca, manioc, 
palisaded villages, hammocks, bark cloth, blowguns, developed metallurgy, 
mummification, burial of a chief with his retainers, and many art styles, 
to extend to or at least to take hold in Mexico points to the origin 
of the particular elaborations of the Central American-Circum-Caribbean 
culture in South America. Some of the Central American-Andean ele- 
ments, however, such as alter-ego statutes, Manabi-type carved stone 
slabs, deep-shaft graves, and others seem to have considerable antiquity 
in Ecuador (Handbook, vol. 2, p, 781), suggesting that the flow has 
been from south to north since the Formative Period traits began to assume 
specialized regional characteristics. 

Mexican influence in Central America is not wanting, but most of 
it seems to have come fairly recently with the migrations of the Nahuatlan 
tribes from Mexico, and its elements, such as tongue piercing, jade 
working, an organized priesthood, steam bath, ritual incense, Chacmool 
statues, Nicoya Polychrome pottery, and the game of voladores, have a 
limited distribution in Central America and did not reach South America. 


The many traits assumed to have come from the Tropical Forest involve 
perishable materials, and, though some of them might have been preserved 
in sites on the arid coast of Peru, archeology elsewhere can throw no 
light on their antiquity or origin. It is likely that those that require forest 
materials, are adapted to a hot climate, and have an ethnographic dis- 
tribution predominantly in the rain forest areas came from such regions. 
For some items, however, such an origin must be accepted with caution. 
The blowgun, for example, now has a Tropical Forest distribution, but 
it also has been found archeologically in the Early Periods of Peru. 

The general inference of these considerations is that the Circum- 
Caribbean developed out of an early culture with characteristics that are 
thought of as Andean. Its class-structured society may represent a 
response to intensive farming and a fairly dense population coupled 
with pressures of warfare rather than a specific complex derived from 
some single center of origin. Many of its special elaborations, however, 
both in element content and in stylistic handling, are derived from the 
Andean and Mexican civilizations, especially the former. It even appears 
that its specific resemblances to the Andes may have been greater at 
some early prehistoric period than at the Conquest. Meanwhile, its 
distribution in tropical and semitropical regions made it receptive to many 
material items which the Tropical Forest added at some undatable period. 


The Circum-Caribbean culture is found in areas that are largely high- 
land but that have neither the great altitude nor the continuous mountain 
masses of the Andes or the Plateau of Mexico. To a great extent, the 
environment is tropical or subtropical. 

The portions of Colombia where the Andean Cordillera breaks down 
into a series of smaller mountain blocks with comparatively low valleys 
between them are more or less coincidental with the distribution of Sub- 
Andean cultures. The tribes of the Southern Colombian Highland 
(Handbook, vol. 2, p. 911) really belong to this class. To the north of 
them tribes of the upper Cauca River were essentially Sub-Andean, though 
lacking a few characteristic features. The peoples of the Cordillera 
Central between the Cauca and Magdalena Rivers and of the Cordillera 
Occidental west of the Cauca also belong in this group. Farther west, 
the Choco of the Pacific Coast lowlands are definitely Tropical Forest 
in culture. The North Colombia lowlands on the Atlantic coast are Sub- 
Andean, and a very similar culture continues through Panama, Costa 
Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras to the Maya frontier in northwestern 
Honduras. The greater part of Central America is mountainous, but 
there are no great continuous mountain masses. It is possible that some 
less-developed peoples had survived in certain parts of Central America, 
I or example, the Sumo, Jicaque, and Pay a of the East Coast Lowlands 



of Nicaragua, but the Conquest Period culture is not sufficiently well 
known to clarify this point. 

Where the Cordillera Oriental branches off from the Cordillera Central 
in southern Colombia, the Sub-Andean culture continues north through 
the Pijao and Panche to the ChibcJia (Muisca), whose culture is Andean 
primarily in having achieved political states (Handbook, vol. 2, p. 887), 
and its distribution continues to the north of the Chibcha toward Lake 
Maracaibo. Approaching Venezuela the mountain chain forks again south- 
west of Lake Maracaibo, and, as Kirchhoff points out in "The Northeastern 
Extension of Andean Culture" (this volume, p. 349), one branch runs west 
of Lake Maracaibo to the Sierra de Peri j a and onward toward the Sierra 
de Santa Marta, and the other runs northeast skirting Lake Maracaibo on 
its southeast side and becoming the Cordillera de los Andes in Venezuela. 
The tribes of the Cordillera Oriental north of the Muisca (Chibcha) are 
little known except for a few data on the Lache, who adjoined the Muisca 
on the north, and on the Chitarera, somewhat farther north. These 
peoples were definitely Sub-Andean or Circum-Caribbean in their gen- 
eral culture elements and patterns. East of the Andes, the Betoi, Achagua, 
and other tribes of eastern Colombia are Tropical Forest. 

The group of tribes extending northward to the Sierra de Santa Marta 
and the Goajira Peninsula, west of Maracaibo, seem to have lacked most 
of the essential features and should probably be considered Tropical Forest 
peoples. The Timotean peoples of the Venezuela Andes, however, were 
definitely Sub-Andean, and, despite breaks in its continuity, marked even 
by hunting and gathering tribes of northern Venezuela, the Circum- 
Caribbean culture is somewhat resumed among the Carib tribes who were 
spread along the north coast of Venezuela to the Delta of the Orinoco. 
A break is again encountered in the Lesser Antilles, which had been in- 
vaded by the Carib, probably in the last century before the Conquest, 
but the Circum-Caribbean culture is found again among the Araivak of 
the Greater Antilles, and it extended as far as Cuba and Haiti, where 
the primitive hunting and gathering Ciboney still survived. 

A general hypothesis is offered to explain this distribution. In the 
first place, it is probable that the fundamentals of this culture were spread 
from a single source. The occurrence of such specific items as gold- 
embellished litters among the Antillean Arawak as well as in the Andes 
and of definitely Colombian art motifs in Central America cannot be 
explained by independent invention. They imply intertribal contact so 
strong that it must have facilitated the diffusion of many other traits. 
At the same time, the social and political patterns required a basis of 
intensive farming that supported large permanent villages. H diffusion 
of the Circum-Caribbean culture from a single source is postulated, 
therefore, it must have involved the essential technologies and subsistence 
as well as the sociopolitical and religious features. 


Theories of the origins of American civilizations have always tended 
to push the ultimate origin to the area that is least known scientifically. 
The basis of Mexican culture was sought first in Mexico and then in the 
Andes, and when developmental stages were not found in Peru, ultimate 
origins were again pushed to the least-known areas, the jungles east of 
the Andes. That many individual Highland traits were ultimately 
derived from the jungle is quite probable. That the essential sociopolitical 
patterns and esthetic elaborations of the basic technologies came from an 
area that still can support only slash-and-burn farming and small com- 
munities organized on a simple kinship or unstratified basis is highly 

The alternative hypothesis is that the patterns characteristic of the 
Circum-Caribbean cultures were Higliland-derived and that at one time 
they formed a substratum which extended from the Andes to the Mexican 
Highlands. This substratum probably included the elements listed for 
the Formative Period culture. Out of it grew the Mexican culture, which 
emphasized the temple cult and war achievements, and the Peruvian 
civilization, which elaborated sociopolitical structure and material arts. 
A corollary hypothesis is that at a fairly early period, perhaps when the 
culture was less environmentally specialized than later or when it had 
greater vigor and adaptability, it thrust widely into regions where it later 
ceased to exist sometime before the Conquest, It failed particularly in 
savanna and tropical rain forest areas. This hypothesis not only helps 
explain such breaks in the distribution of high cultures as that between 
the Central Andes and the Chibcha of Colombia or that between South 
America and Mexico, but it accounts for gaps in the occurrence of tht- 
Circum-Caribbean culture, such as those west of Lake Alaracaibo, in 
northern Venezuela, and between the north coast of Venezuela and the 
Antillean Arawak, and it also explains certain archeological remains. In 
the llanos of eastern subtropical Bolivia are mounds and causeways that 
antedate the historic people. In the same area the social classes and the 
temple-priest complex found among the Mojos-Chiquitos tribes and even 
as far east as the Xaray on the upper Paraguay River (Handbook, vol. 3) 
may represent survivals of an early Sub-Andean complex. Stirling (per- 
sonal communication) reports large mounds on the lower ]\laran6n 
River of eastern Peru where only primitive tribes were found in the his- 
toric period. In Colombia, east of the Cordillera Oriental, are ancient 
stone structures, and great causeways are found in the llanos of eastern 
Colombia nearly to the Orinoco River. Ethnologically, the occurrence 
of mummification among the Piaroa, east of the upper Orinoco, and idols 
among the Saliva suggests earlier Highland influence. Stone- faced ter- 
races and stairways of large monolithic stones in the Sierra de Santa 
Marta, neither built by the historic Cdgaba, are evidence of a thrust 
northward, west of Lake Maracaibo. If the stone structures of the Tai- 

653334 — 48 3 


rona area along the coast north of the Sierra de Santa Marta can be 
attributed to the Tairona themselves, they may represent a local survival 
in strength of the earlier culture. In the southern Colombia Highlands, 
the elaborate stone sculpture and architecture of San Agustin is apparent- 
ly fairly old, and surpasses anything attributable to the peoples found at 
the Conquest. The general style and the alter-ego motif of this sculpture 
is found vi^idely on stone statues in Central America north to Nicaragua. 

These threads of evidence are at present very tenuous and await 
archeological verification in the rain-forest areas. It is purely speculative 
to maintain that all these thrusts were contemporary. On the other hand, 
there would seem to be some causal connection between the thrusts of a 
Highland culture into the lowlands or forests at many different places 
and their consistent failure. If cultures of an Andean or Sub-Andean 
type were carried by actual movements of peoples into sparsely populated 
lowlands or tropical forests, they would at first find little opposition. The 
culture, however, seems to depend upon dense populations clustered in 
large stable villages. This is difficult to maintain in tropical rain forests, 
where slash-and-bum farming is carried on, and it is perhaps significant 
that the Maya, who were unique in maintaining a high civilization outside 
a Highland area, had settlements dispersed around religious centers. As 
the lowland became more densely settled owing to better farming, intensi- 
fied warfare would not only be a factor requiring more highly nucleated 
settlements but it would add to the precariousness of their tenure. 

Present data, therefore, could be interpreted to mean that the Circum- 
Caribbean culture originated from an early Sub-Andean stratum that 
may have been carried in part by migrations of peoples into thinly popu- 
lated areas. Population pressure and the necessity of adapting to non- 
Highland environments eliminated some of the more typical Andean 
traits, but the basic patterns and many specific elements survived in sim- 
pler but unmistakable form. 

In historical terms, this hypothesis may be extended to account for the 
origin of the Tropical Forest culture. In Volume 3 it has been sug- 
gested that the Tropical Forest complex has the technologies which 
characterize the Circum-Caribbean peoples and that these technologies 
appear to have spread down the Guiana coast and by water up the Ama- 
zon, The Circum-Caribbean cultures near the mouth of the Orinoco 
would supply a source for these traits; indeed, archeology of the lower 
Amazon yields pottery that in many respects is surprisingly like the 

This thesis suggests that subsequent to the early expansion of the High- 
land cultures there may have been some deculturation which was checked 
at a Circum-Caribbean level. The Circum-Caribbean culture retained 
the general form of the Highland culture, and even added material items 
from the Tropical Forest, but it was not able to maintain the sociopolitical, 


religious, and material elaborations of the civilized peoples. The Con- 
quest initiated another period of drastic deculturation which eliminated 
all but the bare technological processes, and, though the cultures may still 
be regarded as essentially aboriginal, the modern peoples resemble those 
of the Tropical Forests rather than their own ancestors. Loss of lands, 
wars of the Conquest, and European diseases contributed to a reduction 
of the population, and influence from both Spaniards and Negroes modi- 
fied the cultures. In a more fundamental sense, however, it would seem 
that the class-structured society, the temple-idol complex, and the wars 
for slaves and for victims for sacrificial rites and human trophies formed 
strongly interrelated patterns which were destroyed by European religion 
and by laws which prohibited many of the key practices. With the loss 
of these patterns, the artistic refinements that were expressions of them 
also perished. What was left was simple technologies — farming^ in un- 
favorable areas, weaving plain cloth, manufacture of unadorned ceramics, 
canoe making, and the like — and unstratified social groups with weak 
chiefs, with warfare reduced to mere defensive fighting, and with religion 
reduced to shamanistic practices without temples or idols. In short, the 
culture stepped down to the Trooical Forest level. 


The peoples described in Hernandez de Alba's articles in this volume 
on the "Tribes of the North Colombia Lowlands," "Tribes East of the 
Cauca River," "Tribes of the Cauca-Atrato Region," and "Tribes of the 
Upper Cauca River" conform to the general Circum-Caribbean pattern, 
but were Sub- Andean in the possession of certain specific Andean items, 
such as liana bridges, salt working, copper smelting and alloying with 
gold, construction of roads and hilltop forts, war banners, marriage of a 
chief to his sister, and other features not found elsewhere around the 
Caribbean Sea. Archeology reveals traits not reported for the Conquest 
Period tribes. Some of these traits, such as the carved stone statues of 
San Agustin and Tierradentro, evidently belong exclusively to a very 
early period. Other archeological traits, such as shaft-and-chamber 
burials, stone-cist burials, and negative-painted and monochrome-incised 
ceramics, have specific stylistic resemblances to Early Period remains of 
the North Highlands of Peru, but in generalized form they may well have 
survived to the Conquest among some Colombian tribes. 

Although the great ethnographic diversity in Western Colombia un- 
doubtedly reflects to some degree the fragmentary information of our 
sources, archeology suggests a comparable local difference, and there 
seems little doubt that Colombia's extreme local geographic diversity has 
^een an important factor in splitting the area into cultural provinces. 



All tribes of Western Colombia, except the Choco, a Tropical Forest 
people, were sedentary, intensive farmers who lived in large planned and 
probably palisaded villages. The village, and in some instances the tribe 
or dominion, was controlled by a chief of exalted status and great power. 
Under the chief were nobles, commoners, and slaves. Among the Car- 
rapa, Picara, and Paiicura, the chief married his sister, a system which 
the Inca used to preserve the purity of the emperor's divine descent. The 
chiefs seem usually to have been succeeded by their sons, but a matrilineal 
tendency is evident in the frequent marriage of a chief to his sister's 
daughter. The Fincenu even had female chiefs. Evidences of the chief's 
high position are his very large number of wives and retainers, his special 
insignia and ornaments, the gold-adorned litter in which he was carried, 
the special obeisance and etiquette accorded him, and the burial of a num- 
ber of his wives and retainers with him. Development of states through 
federation or imperialism, though less advanced than among the Chibcha, 
is recognizable among the Quimbaya, Tohi, Cenu, and Mompox of the 
North Colombia Lowlands, the Lile of the upper Cauca River, and the 
Ancerma, Catio, and other tribes of the Cauca-Atrato region. In severaJ 
cases, the chief received tribute from federated or subjugated tribes. 

Subchiefs and nobles evidently comprised a distinct and somewhat 
endogamous class, and below them were the commoners and finally the 
slaves. Warfare was essential to this class system, for cannibalism and 
the display of human trophies were means of gaining prestige, and captives 
constituted a slave group. The extent to which the upper strata were really 
warrior classes is not clear, but the existence of regular armies and the 
frequent reports of female warriors, who acquired military fame no less 
than the men, show the great importance of warfare. Human trophies 
consisted of flayed skins and even arms and legs stufifed with ashes (Lile, 
Gorron, Ancerma, and some tribes east of the Cauca) and skulls that 
were either painted (Ancerma) or had their features restored with 
modeled wax. These trophies were displayed on poles. Cannibalism is 
reported among all tribes except possibly those of the North Colombia 
Lowlands. East of the Cauca River, prisoners were fattened before they 
were killed and eaten, and in the Cauca-Atrato region, the Caramanta ate 
not only captives they had taken but slaves bought from other tribes for 
the sole purpose of eating them. East of the Cauca River and in the 
Cauca-Atrato region, captives were also used as sacrificial victims in 
religious rites. 

Temples and idols probably occurred everywhere except on the upper 
Cauca River. In the North Colombia Lowlands, the "great temple" of 
the Fincenu accommodated 1,000 people, and in the Cauca-Atrato region, 
the Ancerma temple was on a large hill ascended by bamboo stairs. In 
both cases, the temple was entered only by priests and chiefs. Idols of 


painted or gold-sheathed wood were kept in these sanctuaries, but among 
some tribes, such as the Caramanta, Poso, and Anna, who built no 
temples, people kept idols in their own dwellings (as among the Antillean 
Arawak) and made offerings to them on special altars. 

There seems to have been no special priesthood. On the upper Cauca 
and among the Evcgico, shamans communicated with the deities, who 
were not represented by idols. "Priests" are mentioned among the An- 
cernm, but it is possible that they were shamans, as seems to have been 
the case among the North Colombia Lowland tribes. In any case they 
served as oracles and made offerings to the idols. 

The nature of the deities and the purposes of the temple or idol worship 
seems to have varied considerably. The Finceiiti apparently had animal 
idols, including the jaguar. The Carrapa lacked idols but made offerings 
to the Sun. The Ancerma principal deity, Xixarama, was the parent of 
ihe sun and uiooii. The Nittibara god, Guaca, was represented as a 
jaguar, and the Catio had celestial deities. 

Human sacrifice is recorded for the Pozo, Arma, Quinibaya. Picara, 
Paiicura, and Caramanta, but its nature and purpose are seldom revealed. 
The Arm£L and Quinibaya performed the rite on a special platform. The 
Caramanta cut out the victim's heart to control the weather, and the Po::o 
made sacrifices before going to war. 

The shaman served as doctor as well as priest. In the North Colombia 
Lowlands, he seems to have treated patients in the temple with the help 
of the gods, using tobacco for purification. The Ancerma shaman mas- 
saged and sucked his patient and blew the sickness into the air. 


Western Colombia had the essential Circum-Caribbean traits of mater- 
ial culture: pole-and-thatched houses, often on piles ( Cauca- Atrato ) ; 
planned, compact, palisaded villages; wooden stools (upper Cauca) ; stone 
metates; hammocks (North Colombia Lowlands, Quimbaya) ; platform 
beds (Ancerma) ; dugout canoes; gold mining and goldworking; calabash 
containers ; pottery, often with negative-painted designs ; woven cotton 
textiles ; breechclouts, aprons, and cloaks or mantles ; featherwork ; ear 
and nose ornaments, especially of gold ; skull deformation (Pozo, Quim- 
baya) ; matting; probably basketry but techniques not known; the chief's 
litter; spear and spear thrower (east of Cauca, Cauca- Atrato, Province 
of Aburra) ; the bow and poisoned arrow (more northern: Province of 
Aburra, east of Cauca (?), North Colombia Lowlands); darts; slings 
(North Colombia Lowlands, east of Cauca, Province of Aburra) ; clubs, 
harpoons ; flutes ; drums ; shell trumpets ; coca ; and chicha. 

Specifically Andean traits found here but rarely encountered elsewhere 
around the Caribbean Sea are: manufacture and trade of salt; copper 
smelting and alloying with gold (upper Cauca and east of Cauca) and 


many specialized metallurgical processes ; road construction (Arma, Catio, 
Abibe, Niifabe, Urezo, Aburra) ; liana or vine suspension bridges ; 
aqueducts (Aburra) ; rain gutters and storage vessels (Catio) ; gold 
pincers (Quimbaya) ; war banners (east of the Cauca) ; maces (Province 
of Aburra); balsa canoes (Cenu) ; markets; wrapped funeral bundles 
(Gorron) ; and a system of weights and measures. 

The Tropical Forests may be the origin of the following Western 
Colombian traits that had a limited distribution in the Circum-Caribbean 
area: cultivation of the pixiuva palm; bark cloth (Chanco, Arma) ; 
labrets (Poso, Arma) ; ligatures around the arms and legs; and the use 
of dfeadfall traps, boiling water, and pitfalls with sharp stakes in house 
defense (Antiochia). 

Special features of more restricted distribution were: wells (North 
Colombia Lowlands) ; artificial fish ponds (Gorron) ; the rearing and 
fattening of young pecarries (Urabd, Yamici) ; mute dogs (?) (Aburra; 
cf. Antillean Araivak) ; pottery ocarinas (east of the Cauca) ; and gold 
armor (?) (Arma). 

The only information about crisis rites concerns burial, the more com- 
plicated forms of which were reserved for chiefs. The Genu and Yapel 
of the North Colombia Lowlands and the Nore, Gauca, and probably the 
Catio and Guazusu of the Cauca-Atrato region buried a chief in a mound- 
enclosed vault but gave commoners ordinary earth burial. The Ancerma 
and Caramunta of the Cauca-Atrato region and the tribes east of the 
Cauca and of the upper Cauca buried chiefs in a deep pit. The Ancerma 
first desiccated the body, but the Quimbaya cremated it and buried the 
ashes. It is not certain whether these pits correspond to the shaft-and- 
chamber burials found archeologically in the Quimbaya, upper Cauca, 
Tierradentro, and Narifio zones. Many of the latter may belong to a 
very early period. 


The Highland tribes in the Cordillera Oriental north of the Chibcha 
and in the Andes which stretch toward the coast on both sides of Lake 
Maracaibo not only seem to represent a marked break-down of Sub- 
Andean culture but fail to supply many essential links with the north 
coast of Venezuela to the east and with the Antillean Arawak. One has 
the feeling that the data are too fragmentary to give a coherent picture. 
It is possible, of course, that tribal movements, for example, of the Cari- 
ban Motilones and their neighbors, may have broken the continuity. 
Even the Timote of the Venezuelan Andes, who have the strongest Sub- 
Andean complex, do not wholly fill the bill, for they seemingly lacked 
such an essential trait as metallurgy. Archeology has not yet corrected 
the difficulty, for metallurgy has not been found in Venezuela. Arche- 


ology does, however, provide evidence of Andean influence in the stone 
terraces and rock-Hned tombs of the Andes south of Lake Maracaibo and 
in the mounds and causeways in the llanos of Colombia west of the 
Orinoco River. It also suggests that the culture of the northeast coast of 
Venezuela was formerly more like that of the Orinoco and West Indies. 


The Lache and Chitarera, immediately north of the Chihcha, and the 
Thnote of the Venezuelan Andes seem to have had the most complete 
Sub-Andean culture. Some of the tribes between them, such as the 
Zorca, were perhaps more typically Tropical Forest. 

These tribes cultivated the essential food plants, including a consider- 
able number of fruits. The Timoteans had permanent, often terraced 
fields, and used water-storage tanks and irrigation ditches. Large, 
planned, permanent, and perhaps palisaded villages were also character- 
istic of the Timoteans, Corbago, and Lache; one Lache town had 800 
stone houses. Chitarera and Zorca villages, however, were small. The 
large communities would seem to have afforded a basis for developed 
chieftainship and a class structure on the Circum-Caribbean pattern. 
The only evidence of this is a reference to noblemen and the statement 
that some Ti mot can chiefs ruled whole valleys. There is no reference 
to special burial for chiefs, or to litters. Evidence of a temple cult 
comes from the Ladie, who built a "House of the Sun," like the Chihcha 
temple, and from the Tint'Oteans, who had a temple in the center of 
every town. These latter temples held idols made of pottery, wood, 
stone, or cotton thread, and they were entered only by the priests, who 
made offerings of manufactured objects, foods, beads, and deer parts 
to the gods. More specifically Andean was the Timotean belief in gods 
of mountain peaks and lakes, and their rituals performed on mountain- 
tops and in caves. But human sacrifice was missing. 

Virtually nothing is known of the war complex, though warfare seems 
to have been of some importance. There is evidence of somewhat regi- 
mented military operations in the Cordillera Oriental and of taking pris- 
oners among the Timoteans. Cannibalism is not mentioned, and the 
straw-stuffed human heads, arms, and legs found among the Corbago, 
though suggesting the war trophies of Western Colombia, may have been 
the tribe's own dead. 

These Sub-Andean tribes lacked metallurgy but had some of the other 
essential Circum-Caribbean material traits : loom-woven textiles of culti- 
vated cotton; ceramics; cotton tunics and mantles (Timote women 
pinned theirs at the left shoulder with a wooden or gold pin) : necklaces 
and breastplates, especially of bone; liana suspension bridges; clubs; 
spears; apparently either the bow and unpoisoned arrow (the Chinato 


poisoned theirs) or else the spear thrower, but not both; shields; shell 
trumpets; drums; rattles; chicha ; coca; tobacco taken in jelly like form; 
and metates. Hammocks are not mentioned. 


In the area west of Lake Maracaibo there seems to have been great 
local cultural variation. Traces of Sub-Andean culture are not wanting, 
but most information comes from the modern Chake, Cdgaba, and 
Goajiro. These tribes are definitely not Sub-Andean and conform more 
nearly to the Tropical Forest patterns, but the Chake and Cdgaba may 
have changed during the historic period. Some use of stone construction 
in the Tairona area suggests a limited survival of Sub-Andean culture. 

The modern Chake cultivate a considerable number of plants, but 
their fields are not permanent. As a corollary, their villages are small 
and their society unstratified. Their religion evidently lacks any trace 
of the temple cult ; a harvest festival with chicha drinking and castigation 
of one another with bow staves is reported. In the Sierra de Santa 
Marta, archeology suggests the earlier presence of more advanced agricul- 
ture, but the modern people make only rough stone terraces and practice 
elementary irrigation. Modern Cdgaba villages are small and lack social 
strata and chiefs. They are governed by priests, who wear spirit masks 
and conduct seasonal ceremonies in the village temple, which also serves 
as the men's house, but there are no idols. Supernatural beings include 
various spirits and human ancestors. The Goajiro have been so com- 
pletely modified by their early adoption of cattle that little trace of aborig- 
inal culture remains. They are intensive nomadic herders, with farming 
secondary. Wealth, represented by cattle, gives social status, but the 
basic social structure is matrilineal sibs. So far as is known, the Goajiro 
had no trace of a temple cult, and their religion is limited to beliefs in a 
culture hero, bush spirits, and a god or gods of thunder, lightning, and 
drought. They have shamans who function solely as medicine men, 
performing with the aid of a spirit-helper. The Goajiro had some war- 
fare, and possibly slaves were taken, but cannibalism, human sacrifice, 
and human trophies are not recorded from any of these tribes. 

Burial customs give no hint of the elaborate Circum-Caribbean methods 
used in disposing of deceased chiefs. The Chake expose the body and 
later bundle up the bones and place them in a cave, perhaps a reflection 
of Andean procedures. The Cdgaba and Goajiro practice primary earth 
burial, and the Goajiro rebury in an urn. 

Weaving is done on the true loom by the Chake, Cdgaba, and Goajiro, 
the first two with agave fibers and domesticated cotton, the Goajiro with 
wild cotton. The Cdgaba, Chake, Arhuaco, and Goajiro also make netted 
carrying bags. The Chake make a variety of twilled and woven baskets, 


but the Cdgaba make only a few mats and boxes, the Goajiro no baskets. 
Crude pottery is made throughout the area. Metallurgy is not reported. 
Other elements present are: bows and arrows (unfeathered among the 
Chake; poisoned with animal-derived ingredients, Goajiro); fish drugs 
(Chake) ; fish nets (Cdgaba) ; babracot (Chake) ; and metate (Chake, 
Cdgaba). The pre-Columbian presence of dogs is doubtful. The Chake 
are un-Andean in shunning salt. The platform bed is absent, but the 
Cdgaba and Goajiro use the hammock, and the Cdgaba have wooden 
stools. The long cotton tunics of the Chake, the cotton blankets worn by 
Goajiro women and by the Coanoa, and the Cdgaba gowns are Andean 
traits, and so are Coanoa nose and ear ornaments made sometimes of 
trade gold. Goajiro men wear breechclouts. The Chake and Cdgaba 
use carrying baskets; canoes are not ascribed any of these tribes. The 
Cdgaba make complicated log bridges. Coca, chicha, tobacco, drums, 
hollow-log drums (Goajiro), flutes, trumpets, and rattles are found. 


The tribes of the northwestern portion of Venezuela between Lake 
Maracaibo and Cabo Codera (p. 469) seem to have formed a somewhat 
tenuous link in the Circum-Caribbean culture between the Timotcans and 
the tribes north of the Orinoco River. In religion and political organiza- 
tion the Arawakan Jirajara and Caquetio have certain specific resem- 
blances to the Arawakan Taino of the Antilles. 

The political unit was the village, which had its own chief, but the 
Jirajara had a tribal war chief and the Caquetio had a tribal chief of 
general power and prestige. The Caquetio chief was accredited with super- 
natural power to control natural phenomena and plant growth, he was 
carried in a hammock, and he received special treatment at death. Under 
the chief were nobles, warriors, and rich men, each forming a special 
class. At death, leading men were burned and their ashes drunk, but the 
head chief's body was desiccated, placed in his house in his hammock with 
a wooden image below him, and later cremated and his ashes drunk. 

These tribes were extremely warlike, but the functional role of warfare 
in sociopolitical life is not known. 

There was some kind of community temple (adoratorio) where offer- 
ings were made by shamans to the sun and moon and where shamans 
practiced divination with tobacco ash and communed with spirits while 
taking tobacco and a narcotic herb. Each house was also a place of wor- 
ship in that it had its own idols. Human sacrifice was practiced : young 
girls were beheaded and their blood offered to the sun in order to obtain 
rain. Shamans not only served as priests but they also cured illness ]by 
sucking out the disease-causing object. 

Agriculture was best developed among the Caquetio and Jirajara. Near 
Barquisimeto, irrigation was carried on. Salt was manufactured and 


traded. Items of material culture reported include : pile dwellings ; clubs ; 
bows and arrows (poisoned among the Jirajara) ; fish drugs; hammocks; 
women's front apron, skirt {Jirajara), or a string passed between the 
legs ; men's calabash penis cover or string to tie up the penis ; body paint ; 
chief's feather, gold, and pearl ornaments ; dugout canoes ; carrying bags ; 
ceramics; woven cotton bags, garments, and hammocks (the weaving 
technique unknown); trumpets; tobacco; masato, which may have been 
fermented, i.e., chicha; and a maguey drink, perhaps similar to pulque. 


Connections between the Andes and the Antilles, though somewhat 
broken in the Cordillera Oriental and the Cordillera de Merida, are partly 
resumed among some of the Cariban tribes of the area between the Ori- 
noco River and the north coast of Venezuela (p. 481). The linkage, 
however, is mainly in material and social features ; the temple cult is 
lacking. As archeology suggests that resemblances of this area and the 
Antilles were somewhat greater at an earlier period, the historic inhabitants 
may not have transmitted the Circum-Caribbean culture to the Antilles ; 
possibly they merely acquired it by contact with those who did transmit 


Intense farming is indicated not only by a considerable list of plants, 
including bitter manioc and rows of fruit trees, but by irrigation (Cn- 
managoto) and in some tribes the performance of the main labor by men. 
Villages were very large (as many as 200 houses among the Aruacay), 
carefully laid out, and surrounded by one to three palisades. {Piritu 
villages may have been smaller, for they were abandoned at a death.) 
Social classes were well developed, with a powerful chief and frequently 
various subchiefs ; and there were some federations. The chief was car- 
ried in a gold-adorned litter, and on the Unare River he had a harem of 
200 wives (attended by eunuchs, according to the chroniclers!). His 
decrees were promulgated from an artificial mound, and he had power of 
life and death over his subjects. Often these chiefs had magical power 
and were also shamans. The Caracas had graded military classes with 
distinctive insignia. Traces of Sub-Andean death practices are found 
here, though it is not clear whether they were restricted to chiefs: desic- 
cation of nobles and hanging the body in the house (Chiribichi) ; roasting 
and burial, with subsequent reburial or cremation {Piritu) ; burial in a 
clay and log tomb with an image on top {Aruacay). The Cumand dried 
the body and drank the bone powder and fat. Little is known of com- 
moners or slaves, except that the latter, who probably were war captives, 
were objects of trade. There was considerable warfare, carried on with 
fairly well organized armies which included female warriors. The prin- 
cipal weapons were bows, arrows with animal-derived poison, spears, 


shields, clubs, and, on Trinidad, spear throwers; these were kept in 
arsenals. The Cumanagoto, Marcapana, and Palenque were cannibalistic, 
and the Piritii drank powdered enemy hearts in chicha. The only record 
of human trophies is Piritu flutes of human bone. Human sacrifice is not 

Religion lacked the temple cult. The sun and moon were supreme 
beings. Ceremonies had some connection with deer and fish, and offer- 
ings of first fruits and of various valuable objects were made to the 
earth and ocean. The Palenque had hunting and fishing magic. The 
shaman, who had great power and social prestige and frequently was 
also the chief, came nearest to performing priestly functions when he 
served as oracle, communicating with spirits in caves so as to learn the 
future. He cured sickness by sucking out or causing the patient to 
vomit the disease-causing evil spirit. Witchcraft and divination with 
"yopa," a narcotic snuflf, are reported. The Piritu used flagellation in 
battle magic and the ant ordeal in girls' puberty rites. 


Material culture includes the following elements : textiles of woven 
wild cotton; pottery; basketry; salt making; dugout canoes; hammocks; 
excellently carved wooden stools; the calabash penis cover, penis thread, 
or breechclout for men ; the apron, breechclout, or drawers for women ; 
head deformation; profuse ornaments of many materials including trade 
gold and pearls (the Guaiqueri had pearl fishing) ; tattooing; domesticated 
turkey, Muscovy duck, and bees; fish harpoons, nets, traps, and hooks; 
bird snares and bird lime; the babracot; chicha; tobacco; hollow-log 
drums ( ?) ; flutes; shell trumpets; and rattles (used by shamans). 


Three waves of cultural influence had swept the Antilles: first, the 
primitive hunting and gathering Ciboney coming probably from Florida ; 
second, the Arofwak, who were typically Circum-Caribbean and came 
from South America; third, the Carih, who were Tropical Forest rather 
than Circum-Caribbean, and also came from South America. At the 
Conquest the Ciboney occupied part of Cuba and Haiti. The Arawak 
held the remainder of the Greater Antilles, but they had been driven from 
most of the Lesser Antilles by the Carih, probably in a very recent pre- 
historic period. 


The Arawak lacked some of the more important Circum-Caribbean 
cultivated plants but nonetheless depended more upon farming than on 
fishing, and they tended to live away from the seacoast. Their villages, 


which consisted of as many as 3,000 persons, were carefully planned, 
and each enclosed a ball court. Commoners occupied communal houses, 
but the chief, who had great prominence, lived in a special house of his 
own. In the hierarchy of chiefs, the head chief ruled a province, which 
was divided into as many as 30 districts, each under a subchief, and a 
district consisted of 70 to 80 villages, each with a headman. A chief 
had power of life and death, and he controlled civil, military, and religious 
affairs, there being no separate priesthood. He bore titles, was treated 
with special etiquette, and, to complete the parallel with Colombia, he 
was carried in a gold-decorated litter and upon his death he was either 
disemboweled, dessicated, and kept as an idol (zemi), or he was buried, 
accompanied by several of his wives. Ranking below the chief were 
the nobles who formed a council, the commoners, and the slaves. The 
society had matrilineal inheritance but lacked clans. 

It is probable that the slave class came from war captives, but the 
Arawak evidently departed from the Circum-Caribbean pattern in lacking 
cannibalism and human sacrifice. There was some warfare, however, 
and on St. Croix Island, female warriors are reported. 

Arawakan religion had the functional equivalent of the priest-temple- 
idol complex, but the elements and organization were somewhat distinc- 
tive. Evidently combining the guardian spirit concept with fetish worship, 
there was a large number of idols called zemis. These were made of 
different materials, and they represented plant, animal, and human spirits, 
often those seen. in dreams. A common type found archeologically is 
a three-cornered stone. Each zemi served a special purpose, and every 
person had one or more in his house. The zemis were offered food, 
and people fasted and took emetics and snuff while invoking their help. 
Because the chief's zemis were the most powerful in a community, he 
conducted group celebrations in their honor. 

A more specific Circum-Caribbean trait is the public seance which 
shamans held in caves to communicate with zemis and other spirits. In 
addition to zemis there was belief in nature spirits and in human ghosts, 
which were feared. Celestial deities are mentioned, and the sun and 
moon were connected with the myth of human emergence from a cave. 
Shamans conformed to the ritual pattern in taking snuff and emetic 
before singing, shaking a rattle, and sucking the cause of disease from 
a patient. 

The dead were usually buried in the ground or placed in a cave, but 
the head was always kept in a basket in the house. Children sometimes 
received urn burial. 


The Arawak material and technological culture seems to have included 
most if not all the Circum-Caribbean elements. With the aid of irriga- 


tion, they grew potatoes, peanuts, beans, and arrowroot, but they evi- 
dently either lacked hard-kernel maize or ate their maize before it 
matured. This may explain why they used the mortar but not the metate. 
They also had bitter manioc and squeezed the poison out of it with the 
tipiti, but these traits may have been acquired in the historic period. 
The pepper pot was a characteristic dish. The Arawak hunted with clubs, 
dogs, bird decoys, drives, and corrals, and they used calabash masks for 
taking ducks. The absence of the bow, except among the Ciguayo (who 
used featherless arrows that were sometimes poisoned), and the presence 
of the spear thrower suggest that the spread of the former at the ex- 
pense of the latter elsewhere may have been comparatively recent. In 
warfare, clubs and stones (on Trinidad, the sling) were also weapons. 
Fishing devices included the usual items : nets, weirs, hooks, harpoons, 
and baskets. The domesticated parrot is of local interest, and the some- 
what puzzling mute dog may be related to a similar animal ("perro mudo") 
of the Abu^rrd of Colombia. 

Other typical Circum- Caribbean traits found among the Island Arawak 
are the woman's apron, frontal head deformation, ear and nose piercing, 
the platform bed for chiefs and hammocks for commoners, carved stools 
of both stone and wood, dugout canoes, carrying baskets, twilled basketry, 
pottery with plastic forms and with one-, two-, and three-color positive 
and negative designs, and wooden bowls. Metallurgy was restricted to 
gold, which was taken from placer mines and worked by hammering, 
but objects of gold-copper alloy were obtained by trade. The presence 
of true weaving is uncertain ; hammocks, bags, and aprons may have 
been netted of cotton. The rubber-ball game, cigars, hollow-log drums, 
gourd rattles, shell trumpets, chicha, and coca ( ?) are all Circum-Carib- 
bean. but the use of emetics and of snuiif taken through a Y-tube is ex- 


The Island Carih were very similar to the Arawak in material culture, 
but their social and religious patterns were more like those of the Tropical 
Forests, and their ferocity and cruelty in warfare were very reminiscent of 
the Tupi. They made continual raids and took female captives as wives, 
but tortured, killed, and ate male captives and made trophies of their bones. 
Socially they were extreme individualists and attached little importance 
to rank or to chieftainship. Prestige was acquired by achievement, and a 
boy's powers were tested in his puberty rites. Although captive wives 
were kept in a slave status and occasionally a slave was buried with his 
or her master, the children of captive women were freemen. Lacking 
social classes, kinship relations were of great importance, and the village 
tended to consist of an extended matrilineal family. 


A reflection of Arawakan religion is seen in offerings made to guardian 
spirits, which were not, however, represented by idols. The importance 
attached to the dead people is shown not only in the great fear of ghosts 
but also in the shaman's practice of keeping his ancestors' bones as a 
source of power and the belief that his ancestor's spirit assisted him in 
obtaining a spirit helper. Shamans cured by means of sucking. They also 
held public seances. Ritual elements included fasting, scarifying — both 
were present in boys' and girls* puberty rites — and feasts with much use 
of chicha. Among mythological supernatural beings were an unnamed 
power in Heaven, various astral beings, especially the sun and moon, and 
a culture hero from heaven. 

The Carih usually practiced earth burial, but sometimes they cremated 
a chief and drank his ashes with chicha. 

In material traits the Carib differed from the Arazvak in making great 
use of bitter manioc, which they prepared with the manioc grater and the 
tipiti, in their failure to use salt, in the certainty that they wove cotton, and 
in their expert navigation in large, planked, dugout canoes. Their weapons 
included bows and poisoned arrows, javelins, and clubs. The Carib lacked 
the ball game and had other athletic contests instead, but they used cigars, 
single-head skin drums, gourd rattles, conch-shell trumpets, and one-string 
gourd instruments. 



In instances when early documents and the archeology of the protohis- 
toric period give a reliable picture of the aboriginal peoples, the cultures 
are so strikingly different from those of the modern tribes that it is difficult 
to recognize that the latter are descendants of the former. In the absence 
of Conquest period data, this drastic deculturation makes it extremely 
difficult to ascertain the native distribution of the Circum- Caribbean culture. 

The Cuna who live between the Panama Canal and Colombia must once 
have had a Circum-Caribbean culture, for, though their modern sociopoliti- 
cal organization is of a Tropical Forest type, archeological remains of the 
late prehistoric period and documents of the early post-Conquest period 
supply many of the missing traits. The tribes southwest of the Canal, 
who probably belonged to the Guaymi group, had a culture very similar to 
the aboriginal Cuna. The chroniclers describe these people as cultivating 
many large cleared areas where today there is jungle and as having a 
stratified society. 

The Talamanca Division is also undoubtedly classifiable as Circum- 
Caribbean, though they have a few traits, such as netted bags, bark cloth, 
clans, boys' puberty ceremonies, and communal houses, that are usually 
associated with less-developed cultures. It is possible that in some instances 
these features occurred in isolated, culturally retarded tribes, but on the 


whole they appear to have persisted in true Circum-Caribbean contexts. 
Archeology of the general Talamanca area, however, reveals unexpectedly 
developed features : house and burial mounds, courtyards, and monoliths 
in the Pacific region and grouped burial and habitation mounds in the High- 
land. Associated with these are carved stone statues, many of them with 
the alter-ego motif or other features linked with South America. There is 
also archeological evidence of metallurgy in gold and of three-legged or 
four-legged stone zoomorphic metates or stools. These archeological ma- 
terials have not been interrelated sequentially, and none but a few ceramic 
types have been identified with modern tribes. Though animal-form 
metates were used by the historic tribes, there is no certainty that they 
were not taken from old sites. At least one mound group appears to have 
been occupied at the Conquest. Perhaps it is assignable to the Meso- 
American tribes, for it does not fit the ethnographic picture of the 
Talamancan peoples. Many of the other mounds and stone carvings could 
well antedate the historic tribes. 

Among the tribes of the Caribbean Lowlands of Nicaragua and Hon- 
duras, ethnological data show the Circum-Caribbean complex in greatest 
strength among the Mosquito of the Eastern Coastal Plain and among 
the Sumo. This impression may merely reflect insufficient information 
about other tribes, though the Jicaque and Paya appear to have been on 
a distinctly lower level. Archeology discloses definite Maya influence in 
the Ulua-Yojoa region, but this influence is not manifest in the culture of 
the Jicaque who occupied this region at the Conquest. On the northeast 
coast of Honduras and the Eastern Coastal Plain of Nicaragua the arche- 
ology has a non-Mexican character, and the monoliths and stone statues 
are of South American types. In Jicaque and Paya territory there are 
a great many indications of a high culture, such as mound groups, paved 
roads, canals, monoliths, stone statues, and offertories, but their age and 
relationship to the Conquest Period tribes are uncertain. If certain stone- 
faced mounds can be assigned to the Su\a.-Jicaque and the Paya, the 
post-Conquest deculturation of these tribes must have been very great. 
On the Eastern Coastal Plain the mounds, monoliths, goldwcrk, and 
stone animal-form metates seem congruent with the cultural level of the 
Mosquito, but here too the archeological materials are undated and many 
of them may represent a much earlier period. The same holds for the High- 
land area with its burial and habitation mounds, its alter-ego, chacmool, 
and various small stone statues, its stone-cist and mound burials, its 
carved stone slabs, and its stone metates and stools. The region of the 
Caribbean Lowland tribes has the modeled and tripod ceramic complex 
of Stone's Central American "Basic Culture" (p. 169), which apparently 
persisted from a fairly early period to the Conquest, but the only correla- 
tion with historic tribes is that Luna polychrome and incised Zapatero 
monochrome, both associated with urn burial, were made by the Ulva, 


and that the Bold Geometric polychrome and North Coast Applique styles 
probably pertain to the Lenca, Jicaque, and Paya. These wares, though 
distinctly non-Mayan, extended to the Maya frontier in the Uhia-Yojoa 
district, where they blended with Mayan styles. 

In the Northern Highlands the modern Lenca have lost most traces of 
a Circum-Caribbean culture, but if the site of Tenampua in Central Hon- 
duras really belonged to them, they had a very high culture at the Con- 
quest. This hilltop site is fortified with stone walls and has a ball court 
and numerous terraces and mounds, some of them stone-paved. This 
and other hilltop sites may be connected with the supposed Lenca pilgrim- 
ages in the last century to their aboriginal village sites and with their 
modern custom of visiting hilltop shrines to commune with the spirits. 
But the ceramics of these sites have not yet been identified with the Bold 
Geometric and Bold Animalistic polychrome and North Coast Appilique 
pottery styles that were probably made by the Conquest period Lenca. 
If the structural complex represented at Tenampua is actually Conquest 
Period Lenca, the Circum-Caribbean culture must have existed in some 
strength in Highland Honduras, and it may have considerable antiquity, 
for the ceramic traditions of the Lenca are fairly old in the area. 


Panama. — Aboriginal villages of the Cuna are not described, but 
communities southwest of the Canal had as many as 1,500 people, were 
palisaded with living fences, and each had a large, many-roomed, and 
well-provisioned house for the chief. Modern Cuna villages are seemingly 
much less impressive. The Conquest Period Cuna had four social classes, 
though today they have merely extended matrilineal households. South- 
west of the Canal the aboriginal classes were : ( 1 ) The head chief, who 
controlled several villages; (2) the nobles, who captured their retainers 
in war or inherited them; (3) commoners, who might marry nobles; 
and (4) slaves, who were war prisoners. Ceremony attending the chief 
is not fully described, except that he was carried in a litter and had many 
wives and slaves. A chief or noble was either buried with wives and re- 
tainers v/ho had been stupefied, or his body was desiccated and seated in 
a room or placed in a hammock. Similar burial is indicated in the Code 
area, and Sitio Conte had archeological evidence of burial of a headman 
with many wives and quantities of gold and other valuable objects. 
Secondary urn burial is reported archeologically on the Atlantic Coast 
and deep-grave burial on the Pacific. 

Warfare was well developed and there were standing armies. Captives 
were taken, and the early Cuna killed male enemies so that the sun might 
drink their blood ; a man accredited with 20 such victims received a title. 
Southwest of the Canal acquisition of territory as well as prestige were 
war objectives. 


There are no records of a temple cult, except what human sacrifice and 
the shaman's fetishes (see below) suggest. There was formerly sun 
worship. The modern Cuna are Christians. They have a considerable 
ceremony for girls a year after their puberty confinement. The priest or 
shaman burns cacao in a brazier, smokes cigars, and chants with the aid 
of a mnemonic board. These elements enter other shamanistic activities, 
and the shaman also uses wooden fetishes, perhaps survivals of or derived 
from an idol cult. With their aid he prognosticates, finds lost objects, 
and cures disease, sending his fetish's soul to bring back that of the 

The mnemonic boards bear a kind of conventionalized system of pictures 
and symbols, but they are not true writing in any sense inasmuch as the 
symbols are peculiar to the individual and cannot be interpreted by other 

The Talamanca Division. — Farming in the Talamanca Division was 
more important at the time of the Conquest than today, and it supported 
palisaded villages which consisted of a large house or a group of houses, 
possibly some of them communal, to judge from modern dwellings. 
Early documents report feudal states among the Guaymi, the Talamanca 
Division, and the Guetar. The Brihri even conquered the Terraba in the 
early 19th century, and they exercised political control over the Cabecar. 
Brihri chieftaincy rests in a single family and must be a survival of an 
older class system, though the main Brihri, Cabecar, and Terraha head- 
men were said to be elective war chiefs. Chiefs wore gold ornaments and 
special insignia. The Guetar had nobles, commoners, and slaves, the last 
being captive women and children ; captive men were sacrificed. 

Social stratification among the Circum-Caribbean tribes seems gen- 
erally to have been at the expense of clan systems, and this was certainly 
true of the Mexican and Andean civilizations. The Brihri, however, had 
exogamous matrilineal clans and moieties, and the modern Guaymi evi- 
dently have exogamous clans. Evidence of avuncular marriage and 
matrilineal descent appears among some of the West Colombian Sub- 
Andean tribes. Though usually superseded by classes, a clan system is 
not incompatible with them, as shown by the Northwest Coast culture of 
British Columbia and Alaska, which combined a strong class system with 
matrilineal clans and moieties. Perhaps in Central America we have 
traces of an old Chihchan clan organization. 

Warfare was an important feature of social life, for its purpose was 
to obtain women and children as slaves and men as sacrificial victims. 
Brihri, Cahecar, and Terraha warriors formed a special class and received 
special burial. 

Kinds of burial accorded chiefs and nobles are not reported, but some 
of the usual practices were present : embalmed bodies placed in mortuary 
buildings (Guetar), inhumation, and various kinds of secondary burial 


Whether archeological deep-shaft graves in Veraguas and stone-cist graves 
in Chiriqui were connected with the historic tribes is not known ; the latter 
are thought to he late prehistoric. 

The temple cult is not mentioned, and concepts of supernatural beings 
are not known, but the Bribri and Guetar are accredited with a formal 
priesthood. The Guetar sacrificed human beings at every moon and at 
burial feasts. 

An unusual Guaymi feature, reminiscent of more primitive tribes, is a 
secret ceremony in which boys are instructed, their faces painted, and their 
teeth chipped (Negro influence?), after which they may marry. 

The Caribbean Lowlands. — The modern Caribbean Lowland tribes 
have a considerable list of cultivated plants (p. 220), but their farming is 
slash-and-burn. Their early villages consisted of 100 to 500 people living 
in one or more communal houses. Sociopolitical features are little known. 
The chief, though elected by the elders, had supreme power. A hereditary, 
matrilineal tendency is evident among the Mosquito, but no clans are 
mentioned. A Mosquito chief was sewed up in a mat, and slaves, servants, 
and sometimes a shaman were buried with him. That mummification 
was practiced is uncertain. The Sumo may have made gold and clay 
masks of deceased chiefs. 

Warfare was well developed among the Mosquito, Sumo, and perhaps 
the Paya. The first two tribes accorded military rank and insignia to all 
men, and they subjected boys to tests as part of their puberty training. 
The Mosquito fought wars to take captives and the Sumo to kill their 
enemies, make trophies of their teeth and fingernails, and reputedly to 
eat them. 

There is no record of a temple cult, and only the shaman is reported 
in recent times. His main function is to cure sickness, which he does 
by means of trances, dancing, singing, using painted sticks and carved 
figures, and driving the disease-causing spirit out of the patient. He 
also placates evil spirits. Among supernatural beings are the sun, moon, 
various astral gods, and a remote sky deity called "Our Father." 

At death, the corpse is left in the hut, which is abandoned. A Mosquito 
wife exhumes and carries her husband's bones, and there is an anniversary 
mourning ceremony. 

An unusual ritual element is the steam bath for pubescent girls and 
mothers of newborn infants, a North American trait, and circumcision 
among the Sumo. 

The North Highlands. — Little information on the Conquest Period 
ethnology of this area has been assembled, and the modern Lenca reveal 
scant traces of the Circum-Caribbean socioreligious culture. They now 
seem more Honduran than Lidian. Their villages and houses are 
of the modern Honduran type, but if hilltop forts and mound groups 
such as Tenampua (above), belonged to the Lenca, a very developed 


Circum-Caribbean community type with characteristic social and political 
features must have been present. Some towns still have hereditary chiefs, 
and the modern two-class system may be a modified vestige of native 
social stratification. 

Warfare in recent times usually has involved boundary disputes, but 
at one time a warrior ate the heart of his slain enemy to obtain his valor. 

There is no evidence as yet that associates any complicated methods 
of burial with the Lenca. 

A few native religious elements are recognizable today: pilgrimages 
to sacred hills to commune with spirits ; great veneration of the sun ; 
agricultural ceremonies with drinking of chicha and offerings of burned 
copal ; shamanistic curing through offerings of white chickens and copal 
to crosses on sacred hills ; divination by shamans, who throw colored 
beans from a calabash ; ritual chicha drinking ; copal burning as an offer- 
ing; and fumigation of persons. Some of the archeological hilltop sites 
may be old Lenca religious centers, evidencing a very rich native religious 


The material culture of the modern tribes of Central America has lost 
the intensity and esthetic refinements of the Conquest Period, but the 
essential technologies are present. 

The principal crops are maize, sweet manioc, sweetpotatoes, peppers, 
kidney beans, lima beans, gourds, calabashes, and several fruits. Bitter 
manioc was not pre-Columbian. It reached the Cmia and the Caribbean 
Lowlands in the 17th century; the latter probably obtained it from the 
Carib. Whether irrigation was practiced must be ascertained archeo- 
logically. Two Talmnanca subsistence traits that are found also in north- 
ern Colombia are the cultivation of the pejibaye palm {Guilielma utilis) 
and the raising of wild peccaries. The Muscovy duck may have been kept 
by the Caribbean Lowland people and by the Lenca. Domesticated 
turkeys are kept by the Lenca, but their pre-Columbian distribution is 
not known. Apiculture in the Caribbean Lowlands is an exceptional 
feature. The aboriginal presence of the dog is uncertain. 

Central American hunting techniques include bows and arrows, blow- 
guns, spears, slings, traps, snares, game drives with nets (Cima), and 
pitfalls. The spear thrower was used in the Darien region and occurred 
archeologically at Code, but it seems to have been superseded since by 
the bow and arrow. Cuna arrows are unpoisoned, but poisoned arrows 
were used southwest of the Canal and occasionally by the Talamanca 
Division. The Caribbean Lowland tribes used animal-derived poison, 
and their arrows were unfeathered. The blowgun was probably used 
everywhere to shoot clay pellets, but the Ctma adopted the blowgun with 
a poisoned dart in the historic period. Various chipped blades found 


archeologically may have been knives. There were also axes and celts. 
The principal fishing devices were arrows, hooks, nets, traps, spears, 
drugs (Caribbean Lowlands, Lenca), and harpoons (Carribbean Low- 
lands). The production and trade of salt was of some importance. 

The metate and mortar for grinding food and the babracot for smoking 
meat were used in food preparation. Pottery griddles occur in the Carib- 
bean Lowlands. Three-legged and four-legged stone metates (or seats) 
occur throughout Central America, but whether they were made by the 
historic tribes is a problem for archeology. 

Basketry was made by all tribes, but weaves are not described, except 
that the Cwia used twilling, wickerwork, and coiling, and the Talamanca 
a hexagonal weave. Bark cloth is reported for all areas except the North 
Highlands (Lenca), but archeological stone bark-beaters show that it 
was probably general. Loom weaving of domesticated cotton formerly 
occurred in all tribes, except perhaps the Talamanca Division, which now 
uses wild cotton. A wild bast and a netting technique were used for 
hammocks (Talamanca Division) and carrying bags (Talamanca Divi- 
sion, Caribbean Lowlands, Lenca). Ceramics, though now plain, were 
once predominantly of the plastic, incised traditions. There were, how- 
ever, a few polychromes (e. g., at Code and the Bold Geometric ware 
of the Lenca, Jicaque, and Paya and the Luna polychrome of the Ulva). 
Negative-painted ware from Chiriqui and from Honduras may be ascrib- 
able to some of the Talamanca Division peoples. The negative-painted 
and the plastic-incised wares are probably part of the old Circum- 
Caribbean culture. Some authors attribute the polychromes to Meso- 
American influence. 

In Panama, metallurgy in gold and gold-copper alloys was highly de- 
veloped as far as Veraguas, but it faded out in Costa Rica. Some gold 
is found archeologically in the Caribbean Lowlands, but it may represent 
trade objects. Approaching the Maya frontier, copper bells occur 
archeologically, perhaps originating from the secondary and comparatively 
late center of metallurgy in Mexico. In the central part of Central 
America there is an apparent and unexplained gap in the distribution 
of metallurgy and negative-painted pottery. 

Central American clothing includes: the penis cover (Cuna) ; men's 
breechclout (Talamanca Division, Caribbean Lowlands); the woman's 
wrap-around skirt; various mantles of bark cloth Avith painted designs 
(Talafittanca Division) or of textiles with woven-in designs (Caribbean 
Lowlands) ; some skin garments (Lenca) ; sandals (Lenca) ; skin sandals 
(Paya) ; skin, moccasinlike footgear (Mosquito) ; ear, nose, and other 
ornaments of gold, precious stones, and feathers ; head deformation (Carib- 
bean Lowlands) ; scarification (Talamanca Division) ; tattoo as insignia 
of rank (Cuna) ; and chipped teeth (Caribbean Lowlands — Negro in- 
fluence?). Mirrors were found at Code. 


Household furniture consists of platform beds, hammocks (all but the 
Lenca), wooden stools, stone stools (?), and gourd and calabash con- 
tainers. Dugout canoes in the Darien region were described as huge 
and pearl-inlaid ; southwest of the Canal they had cotton sails. Dugouts 
also occurred in the Caribbean Lowlands. For carrying objects on land, 
the Panamanian tribes used carrying baskets and the balance pole, but 
the other tribes used netted bags. Paved roads, a conspicuous feature 
in the Honduran Highlands, may have been made by the historic tribes. 

The aboriginal musical instruments were shell trumpets, panpipes, 
calabash rattles, flutes, musical bows (Caribbean Lowlands), skin drums, 
goblet-shaped drums (Caribbean Lowland), hollow-log signal drums 
(Cuna), whistles, and pottery ocarinas. Chicha and tobacco are general. 
Tobacco or coca was chewed in the Cuna and the Talamanca Division. 
Pottery pipes were used by the Talamanca Division, and cigars by the 

A ball game was played in a special court by the Cuna and, if Tenam- 
pua is a Lenca site, by the Lenca also. 


The more important Meso-American tribes are a number of Nahiiatlan- 
and Chorotegan-s^t^Ving peoples distributed principally along the Pacific 
coast of Nicaragua and Costa Rica. They are thought to have migrated 
to this region from Mexico comparatively recently, some within two to 
four centuries before the Conquest and others even later. They are 
accredited with introducing certain polychrome ceramic wares to Central 
America, and some of their traits, such as the game of voladores, the 
custom of tongue piercing, and certain religious practices, are definitely 
Mexican, not Circum-Caribbean. On the whole, however, they seem to 
have adopted the Circum-Caribbean culture and to have contributed 
very little to it. 


Meso-American communities consisted of houses arranged in streets 
around a plaza where temples and chiefs' "palaces" were built, often on 
low mounds. Society was stratified into three hereditary classes: 
(1) Chiefs, priests, and nobles ; (2) commoners ; and (3) war prisoners, 
who performed menial labor but were ultimately sacrificed and eaten. 
Acquisition of wealth, however, improved social status. Politically, a 
council had great power, and among the Chorotega it selected the chief. 
Nicarao chieftaincy was probably hereditary, though the council also 
had considerable power. 

Warfare was highly developed, and there were trained armies. War 
was waged to settle boundary disputes and to obtain slaves for sacrifices 


and for cannibalism. The taste for human flesh was so great that slaves 
were bred in order that they might be slaughtered. 

The temple cult was served by a special priesthood, which performed 
ceremonies to the various gods on holy days, at the cacao harvest, and 
on such occasions as birth and death. 


Many crops were cultivated, the most important being maize, cacao, 
and tobacco. 

Weaving techniques are not mentioned; the fibers of cotton, agave, 
and palm were used. Ceramics were well developed and included poly- 
chromes of Mexican origin. The presence of metallurgy is uncertain. 
Dugout canoes and rafts were made. Clothing and ornaments included 
the men's breechclout and sleeveless tunic of woven cotton (Nicarao), 
women's skirts (Nicarao), the woman's decorated breechclout (Orontina) , 
gold beads, identifying tattoo marks, head deformation, and men's tongue 
and ear piercing. 

Chicha was made, and coca was chewed with lime. The Mexican 
game of voladores was played, but the ball game is not reported. 



In general, these tribes lacked the intensive farming, especially of 
fruits, and the salt making of northern Colombia. Their technology is 
little known. They made pottery but lacked metallurgy and apparently 
used no canoes. Villages were palisaded and were of fair size, consisting 
of 80 to 90 houses each, with a ceremonial building in the center. High- 
land traits present are the platform bed, head deformation, and liana 
bridges. Men went naked and women wore aprons. Unlike most Sub- 
Andean tribes, the Patdngoro were organized in exogamous matrilineal 
clans rather than social classes. Warfare was strongly developed; 
weapons included the bow and poisoned arrow, lances, boiling water, 
deadfall doors, and sharpened stakes placed in pits. Captives were taken 
not for ritual purposes but for cannibalism, which was so strongly de- 
veloped that human flesh constituted an essential food. All captives 
were killed at once, either being cooked or else cremated, ground, and 
mixed with chicha, an Amazonian trait. There is no evidence of a 
temple-priest complex, though the Aniani shaman concealed himself be- 
hind a wall to answer questions, which is reminiscent of the oracular 
functions of the Sub-Andean priest. Deities were celestial, including 
one which sent thunder and lightning. These tribes practiced earth burial 
and believed in an afterworld that was so pleasant that people sometimes 
committed suicide. Shamans apparently had both human and animal 
tutelary spirits, and they cured disease by sucking. 



These tribes, occupying the llanos and forests on the eastern slope of 
the Andes south of the Chibcha, had a general Tropical Forest culture 
with perhaps a few Sub-Andean traits. They were farmers and lived 
in palisaded villages of multifamily houses arranged around a plaza that 
had a ceremonial building. They had no class system, but old men ap- 
parently had superior status and formed a council. Chiefs were elected, 
and their prestige is indicated only in their use of stools and feather 
blankets and their claim to half the bride price paid at each marriage, 
A deceased chief was cremated, and his ashes were ceremonially drunk 
in chicha by his successor. 

There was much warfare, but slave taking, cannibalism (except Sae 
funerary cannibalism), and human trophies are not reported. At their 
initiation boys were whipped and pricked with lances to make them good 

The special religious house was perhaps comparable to that of the 
Tropical Forests rather than to the Andean temple. The sun and moon, 
who were man and wife, were the gods, and the jaguar and other animals 
were evil beings. No ceremonialism is mentioned except shamanistic 
curing, which was accomplished by sucking out the disease-causing object. 

Subsistence was based on farming, bitter manioc probably being one 
of the crops. The technology is not well known, but cotton was grown 
and must have been woven, though feather instead of cotton blankets 
are mentioned as articles of clothing. Except for these blankets and 
some gold, shell, and feather ornaments, people went naked. These 
tribes used hammocks, wooden stools, dugout canoes, spears, lances, 
clubs, bows and arrows, slings, and shields. They took coca and tobacco 
to obtain visions. 


The Betoi and their neighbors may be classed as Tropical Forest in 
culture, although in some respects they were little more developed than 
the hunting and gathering tribes to their east in the llanos of eastern 
Colombia. They were farmers but carried on much hunting and fishing. 
Their villages were small and were frequently moved. Each consisted 
of one or more communal houses sheltering an extended family. In 
some cases the village apparently was limited to a single extended family, 
and local exogamy was therefore practiced. The village head man was 
the oldest person or one of the older persons of the community. An 
anomalous feature found among the Airico was hired laborers, paid with 
shell disk money. 

Religion was limited to belief in a sun god {Betoi) and other mytho- 
logical beings, but there were no priests or idols. The shaman performed 
as medicine man and used snuff of "yopa" powder. There were no 


temples or group religious ceremonies, but each village had a festival 
house in which men assembled to drink chicha. 

These tribes carried on warfare, using clubs, bows and arrows 
(poisoned among the Lucalia), axes, and lances, but the purpose and 
nature their fights are not known. 

Female infanticide is reported. The dead always received direct earth 

Manufactures were limited to ceramics, bark cloth, mats (Anabali), 
calabashes, and dugout canoes. Betoi chiefs wore bark-cloth garments; 
Jirara and Airico women wore genital covers made of leaves. Bodily 
adornment consisted only of paint and feather crowns. Musical instru- 
ments mentioned are flutes, fifes, and wooden signal drums. 


These tribes contrast sharply with their primitive hunting and gather- 
ing neighbors, and their presence in the area is unexplained. It is of 
interest that archeology in the llanos of Venezuela shows an early ex- 
tension of an Andean culture nearly to the Orinoco River. KirchhoflF 
(p. 439), however, likens these people to Central American tribes. 

The villages were reputedly large, but chiefs seem to have controlled 
groups of houses, not whole villages. Though life was regimented with 
respect to warfare, there is no evidence of a class system. Warfare 
was mainly against Carib raiders, and women participated in battles, 
helping the men. 

There was no temple cult. The moon, probably a supernatural being, 
had a special connection with women. The Otomac believed they were 
descended from stones. The shaman performed as medicine man and 
cured by sucking out stones. Curing was also accomplished by smearing 
blood on the patient ; a child's tongue was pierced and his own blood 
smeared on his body. Circumcision was practiced at puberty. No 
Andean burial forms are reported ; a body was given earth burial and 
later reburied in a cave. 

Subsistence was based on fairly intensive farming which was done by 
men on flood plains, but food plants were limited to one kind of maize, 
sweet manioc, pineapples, and several roots. People slept on the ground 
under palm-leaf mosquito nets. Industries included the manufacture of 
finely woven cotton, ceramics, calabash containers, palm-fiber baskets and 
bags, and dugout canoes. Clubs, bows, and unpoisoned arrows were 
among the weapons. Feathers and other ornaments were worn in pro- 
fusion, but there was no gold, and the only garment mentioned is men's 
wide cotton belts. In their festivities people drank chicha, took coca, 
played the trumpet, and bled themselves. They also played the rubber- 
ball game. 



The Achagua, Saliva, and probably some of the adjoining tribes, such 
as the Puifiave, were well advanced above the Guahibo and their other 
hunting and gathering neighbors, but they had few Andean or Sub- 
Andean features. Their probable possession of patrilinear, totemic, 
exogamous sibs and an ancestor cult links them mainly with the Tucanoan 
tribes of the Northwest Amazon (Handbook, vol. 3). 

These tribes were farmers, and they had fairly large, palisaded villages, 
many of which evidently consisted of a single communal dwelling and 
a separate men's clubhouse. The villages were probably impermanent, 
however, for they were moved at the death of an occupant. There is 
strong evidence that the Achagua had patrilinear, exogamous, totemic 
sibs, each perhaps localized. The village had a chief but accorded him 
few privileges except that of access to vestal virgins of some kind. A 
Saliva chief had to endure a pepper and ant ordeal before taking office. 
There were no social classes. The main grouping outside the family 
was sexual : men foregathered and held drinking bouts in their clubhouse, 
from which women were barred. 

Trophy taking, cannibalism, and capture of slaves and sacrificial vic- 
tims are not reported, and there was no warrior class. The Achagua and 
Saliva fought mainly defensively against predatory tribes, such as the 
Carib, Caberre, and others, which sought to enslave them. 

Presence of the temple cult is suggested only by the Saliva sculptured 
"demons," which were consulted as oracles. The Saliva held ceremonies 
in honor of the Creator, and they also worshiped the sun and moon. 
Achagua masked men represented deities in a ceremony from which 
women were excluded. (Cf. the Tucanoan ancestor cult, Handbook, 
vol. 3, p. 889). The Achagua also had a first fish ceremony. Among 
their gods were a supreme being and special gods of cultivated fields, 
riches, fire, fate, and madness, and one that holds the earth. Witchcraft 
and divination were strongly developed in this area. 

The Saliva shaman sucked, blew on, and anointed his patient in order 
to cure him and purified people and objects with smoke from a cigar 
containing copal. 

The Achagua practiced female infanticide. At a Saliva funeral special 
paraphernalia and trumpets were used and later thrown into the river. 
The body was buried and subsequently disinterred, cremated, and the 
ashes drunk with chicha. The Achagua buried in a sealed grave. 

The main items of Achagua material culture were : Bitter manioc and 
the tipiti ; bows and poisoned arrows (the Caberre were the principal 
producers of poison) ; fish nets; fish drug (barbasco) ; basketry shields; 
well-developed basketry ; netted hammocks and women's skirts, probably 
both of hemp or other wild bast, but no true weaving ; men's breechclouts ; 
ceramics in some variety of forms ; calabash vessels ; wooden stools ; dug- 


out canoes and pole rafts; body paint; shell bead necklaces (used also 
as money) ; necklaces and ear and nose ornaments of pearls; silver pins 
(post-Columbian?), but no goldwork; tattoo, but not as an insignia of 
status ; hollow-log drums ; trumpets ; and "yopa" snuff used for divination. 


The low, densely forested and now unhealthy regions of the Pacific 
coast stretching from Ecuador to the junction of Panama with South 
America was occupied by peoples with backward cultures. On the 
Colombia coast were the Choco. On the Ecuadorian coast Andean in- 
fluence from the Highlands and from the Peruvian coast had implanted 
advanced cultures (see Handbook, vol. 2, p. 780), which surrounded a 
primitive enclave, the Cayapa and Colorado, who adjoined each other 
on the western slope of the Cordillera. 


The Choco were slash-and-burn horticulturists, but they grew only 
food plants and lacked domesticated cotton and tobacco. They relied 
considerably on fishing, using nets, spears, arrows, and a drug, but no 
hooks, and on hunting with the blowgun and dart and the bow and un- 
feathered arrow. They made bark cloth, twilled and woven basketry, 
calabash containers, pottery, dugout canoes, one-piece wooden stools, 
men's loincloths, women's wrap-around skirts, ear and nose ornaments, 
and round pole-and-thatched houses, often on piles. They had coiled 
basketry, one of the few modern survivals of this technique which North 
and South American peripheral distributions and archeological evidence 
show to have been very old and once probably very widespread. They 
lacked metallurgy. Textile weaving was introduced only recently. Like 
the Andean tribes, they slept on the platform bed, but they had the 
hammock as a cradle. 

Choco society was not stratified ; instead there were exogamous, patri- 
lineal lineages that were probably clans. Chieftainship was weakly de- 
veloped, there is no evidence of a war complex with trophies and can- 
nibalism, and shamanism takes the place of the temple cult. Some High- 
land influence has crept into the local context, however, for the shaman's 
fetish staff, which is believed to contain his spirit helper, and the infant's 
doll, which is alleged to embody its guardian spirit, may well reflect the 
idol complex of neighboring tribes. Shamanistic curing through exorcis- 
ing malignant spirits is a somewhat distinctive practice, and the wooden 
models of boats with spirit images used in training shamans are unique. 
Supernatural beings, besides guardian spirits and spirits' helpers, include 
the culture hero, good and evil spirits, and ghosts. A girl's puberty ob- 
servance involved her isolation, as usual, but the use of the scratching 
stick is another old, widespread element that usually has survived only 


in peripheral areas. The main musical instruments are the panpipes, 
flutes, skin drums, and hollow wooden drums. The ceramic art is 
anthropomorphic and zoomorphic. 


The Cayapa and Colorado differ from the Choco in specific elements 
rather than in the general organization of their culture. According to 
tradition, they descended from the Highland and thus may once have 
had a more developed culture. Information about them is comparatively 
recent, but there is little to suggest Andean patterns. Their culture, 
like that of the Choco, is Tropical Forest in many specific elements. A 
trans-Andean spread of some of these appears very possible in view of 
the fact that the Colorado actually traveled across the Andes to the 
Canelo on the eastern slopes to obtain fish poison. 

The Cayapa and Colorado cultivate not only food plants but cotton and 
coca (Cayapa), and they keep guinea pigs. The Colorado take fish with 
nets, traps, hooks, and drugs. Houses of both tribes are frame and 
thatch, those of the Cayapa being on piles. The Cayapa sleep in ham- 
mocks, the Colorado on platform beds. The bow and arrow and the 
dugout canoe were used by the Colorado but not by the Cayapa. Both 
have blowgims, but the former shoot darts from them, the latter clay 
pellets. Cotton weaving, twilled basketry, metates, and crude pottery 
are probably common to both tribes, but metallurgy is not reported for 
either. Calabashes somewhat replaced pottery among the Cayapa. Dress 
of earlier periods showed Highland influence, even the poncho being re- 
ported. Fronto-occipital head deformation was recently found among 
the Colorado. 

Villages are small, those of the Colorado consisting of one house, those 
of the Cayapa of three or four pile dwellings, each sheltering several 
families. Perhaps the social unit inhabiting the Cayapa house is a 
patrilineal lineage, for there is some tendency to patrilocality. Chieftain- 
ship is not well developed, nor are there social classes, a temple cult, or 
a war complex. At the time of the Conquest, however, the Colorado 
were described as warlike and "idolatrous," but as lacking chiefs. 

There are few data on puberty observances, except the Colorado nose- 
piercing and cayapi-drinking rite for boys. The games which the Color- 
ado played as part of mourning wakes are a Highland trait. Both tribes 
bury their dead. 

Musical instruments of probable aboriginal origin are panpipes, flutes, 
drums, and rattles. 

Religion involves good and bad spirits; the latter cause lightning, 
thunder, and other evils. Among the Colorado and probably the Cayapa, 
shamans deal with these spirits. To cure disease the Cayapa shaman 
exorcises an evil spirit, and he also sucks. Two ritual elements link the 


Colorado with the Montana: the belief that disease is caused by the 
intrusion into the body of sharp spines, which the shaman "sucks" out, 
and the use of cayapi {Banisteriopsis caapi). 


The principal distribution of the hunting and gathering, or Marginal, 
tribes is in the Gran Chaco, Patagonia, and Tierra del Fuego (Hand- 
book, vol. 1) and around the perimeter of the Amazon Basin (Handbook, 
vol. 2). The second group includes the Shiriand, IVaica, Guaharibo, 
Auake, Caliand, and Maracand of the Amazon-Orinoco watershed. Other 
primitive hunting and gathering tribes, who are described in the present 
volume, occupied the llanos or plains of the Orinoco Basin and a portion 
of the Antilles. The Guaiqueri and Guamontey were scattered along the 
lower Orinoco River ; the Guahiho, Chiricoa, Yaruro, and others lived 
west of the upper Orinoco in western Venezuela and eastern Colombia ; sev- 
eral groups lived in the plains around Barquisimeto near the Sub- Andean 
Timoteans in the Venezuelan Andes; and the Ciboney were a Marginal 
peoples of the Antilles. 

These tribes unquestionably represent retarded groups, peoples who re- 
mained in dry plains, where farming was not suitable, or in isolated places, 
where the Circum-Caribbean and Tropical Forest cultures did not reach 
them. They have in common the absence of the technological and socio- 
religious features of the more advanced peoples rather than the presence 
of any characteristic complexes. 


All these tribes were hunters, fishers, and gatherers. The Yaruro 
formerly cultivated a little maize but have now given it up. There were 
no permanent villages ; the Guaiqueri and Guamontey lived in movable 
grass-covered houses ; the Guahiho simply sleep under trees or portable 
mats or in hollow trees, and the Yaruro in temporary palm-covered 
shelters. The Guahiho sociopolitical unit is the band of about 30 persons, 
who hunt and make war under the leadership of a headman. They are 
described as nomads, leading a gypsylike life. The Yaruro social unit is 
the extended matrilocal family, but there are also exogamous moieties. 
In warfare it is possible that the pre-Conquest Guahiho took slaves to use 
in trade, but there was no cannibalism. Religion is virtually unknown. 
Yaruro mythology holds that the moon goddess, who is the sun's wife, 
is the creator, and there is a story of a culture hero. Yaruro shamans 
seem to get their power from the moon, which helps them cure sickness. 
In their performances they smoke cigars, drink chicha, and take a narcotic 

Hunting devices include bows and arrows (which the Guahiho some- 
times poisoned). The Yaruro use disguises, harpoon arrows, fish arrows, 


and fishhooks. The Guaiqueri, Guamontey, and the tribes around Bar- 
quisimeto used to cook in skin-lined earth ovens, and the Guahibo and 
Yaruro over a fire. The last two tribes use wooden mortars. The Yaruro 
have pots but rarely boil food in them. None of these tribes uses salt. 

Few of the Circum-Caribbean and Tropical Forest technologies are 
present. The Guahibo and Yaruro make woven baskets, but there is no 
loom weaving. The only recorded textile manufacture is hammocks, and 
these are netted of palm fibers. Pottery is made by the GuaJtibo and 
Yaruro, that of the former being "beautifully" decorated. The Guahibo 
make decorated calabash containers. 

The Guahibo use carrying baskets and dugout canoes, the Yaruro the 
carrying net and rafts. 

Clothing is limited to the Guahibo men's penis cover and the Yaruro 
men's breechclout and women's girdles. The Guahibo have body paint but 
no ornaments ; the Yai'uro, labrets, arm and leg bands, and necklaces. 

The Guahibo, Yaruro, and the tribes of Barquisimeto have the ham- 
mock ; the Gumqueri and Guamontey used to sleep on skins on the ground. 

The Guahibo use rattles, flutes, and panpipes, and they take parica snuff 
for magical purposes and when going to war. 


The little-known and now extinct Ciboney occupied the Guaicayarima 
Peninsula of Haiti and at one time the greater part of Cuba. They are 
thought to have come to the Antilles from Florida. They represented a 
marginal survival of very primitive hunters and gatherers, and they are 
known mainly through archeology. 

These people depended primarily upon sea foods, lived in caves or tem- 
porary shelters, and practiced primary and secondary earth burial and 
cremation. They used clubs, various shell artifacts, chipped-flint daggers, 
clubs, stones (thrown with slings?), breechclouts, and shell ornaments. 
There is no record of their basketry and weaving, but they lacked farm- 
ing, houses, pottery, metallurgy, metates, zemis, and other traits character- 
istic of the Arazvak and did only a little work in ground or polished stone, 
which was manifest especially in stone mortars, axes, and balls. The bow 
is reported but may be post-Conquest. 

Part 1. Central American Cultures 


By Frederick Johnson 

Central America may be defined culturally as the region extending from 
the Atrato and San Juan River Valleys in Colombia nearly to the western 
boundary of Honduras (map 1). It has a fundamental unity in what may 
be a basic cultural tradition or cultural substructure. This basic culture 
has a distinctly South American cast, and the region marks the northern 
limit of culture complexes which were probably derived from South Amer- 
ica. The region has, however, been exposed to influences from the north- 
ern, that is, the Meso-American cultures. The continuing stream of cultural 
diffusion from both the north and south has produced a strong overlay of 
foreign elements which gives many local cultures a superficial similarity to 
those of neighboring regions. These tend to obscure the basic cultures. 


The culture area of Central America is not coterminous with a geo- 
graphical province.^ Central America includes several portions of a larger 
geographic region which extends north to the "Great Scarp" of Oaxaca, 
Mexico, and south to the northern terminus of the Andes, the eastern 
slopes of the Atrato River Valley. This region is part of the Antillean 
Mountain System and is distinct from tlfe great Cordilleras of North and 
South America. The Antillean System comprises a series of east-west 
trending crustal folds, which have given rise to the present river valleys 
and ridges of northern Honduras and central Nicaragua. A major vulcan- 
ism of Pleistocene and Recent date has modified the topography, particu- 
larly of the western termini of these earlier mountains, and a series of 
volcanoes welded into a number of gigantic pedestals are distributed in a 
great arc between Tehuantepec and Costa Rica. A smaller, sigmoid-shaped 
arc of volcanoes, of lower altitude, begins with the Cordillera de Tala- 

» This introduction incorporates data furnished by Stone, KirchhofF, Strong, Stout, and Lothrop. 

» The archeological and ethnological subdivisions do not always coincide with geographical divisions, 
although they are designated by geographical names. Cultural and geographical terminology has 
been correlated so far as possible, but discrepancies remain. 



manca in Costa Rica and continues eastward, following the Cordillera de 
San Bias and the Serrania del Darien in Panama. The vulcanism closed 
a portal connecting the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific, now the area in- 
cluded in the Nicaraguan Lowland. Other changes in level and the deposi- 
tion of volcanic materials formed the Isthmus of Rivas, cutting off from 
the sea the basins of Lake Managua and Lake Nicaragua. The consequent 
rise of the levels of the lakes turned the drainage into the San Juan River 
Valley, leading to the Caribbean Sea. (Cf. esp. Ricketson, 1940 ; Schuchert, 

Along the Caribbean coast. Lowlands of varying width have been 
formed. These are flood plains, alluvial fans or areas of little or no slope, 
which have been built up by the deposition of materials eroded from the 
Uplands. The Lowlands bordering the Pacific — the Pacific Borderlands 
— are less extensive, being composed largely of deposits of volcanic ma- 
terial and recent alluvium. 

The orogeny of the region has been one of the principal factors in the 
development of a number of areas which can be classified according to 
their topography and other general features. The mountain masses divide 
areas affected by the warm moist winds of the Caribbean from those de- 
pendent upon the winter winds and summer monsoons characteristic of 
the Pacific Ocean in these latitudes. This general condition is partially 
obscured by a complication of factors which have not yet been thoroughly 
studied. The climate of different areas and even of restricted localities is 
influenced by the topography, particularly the orientation of the mountains 
with respect to prevailing winds. Even this characteristic is subject to 
exceptions, the nature of which varies in the different areas. 

The Caribbean coast and the Uplands of Central America which drain 
into the Caribbean Sea differ greatly from other areas because of the highly 
specialized environment. This area is covered with a dense tropical forest. 
The moist winds from the Caribbean bring a rainfall of 100 to 200 inches 
a year. Some areas have even more precipitation. The so-called dry 
season is really a period of less rain. Depending upon circumstances, 
especially upon the orientation of the slopes toward the prevailing winds, 
the rainfall varies slightly in different areas but has a negligible effect on 
the significant features of the environment. 


Darien. — Darien is the area between the Atrato River Valley and the 
gap in the backbone of the Isthmus of Panama, the site of the Panama 
Canal. The two ranges that comprise the central structure of Darien lie 
close to the Caribbean coast and the western shore of the Golfo de Uraba. 
The southeasterly extremity turns inland to form the western side of the 
lower reaches of the Atrato River. The southern end of the Serrania del 


Darien becomes lost in a plain. West of this, paralleling the Pacific coast 
of Colombia, lie the hills which are the northern extremity of the Cordillera 
de Choco. 

The southern and western slopes of the two ranges are drained by the 
westerly flowing Rio Chepo, also called Rio Bayano, and the Rio Chucuna- 
que-Tuira, which empty into the Golfo de San Miguel. The watersheds 
of these two relatively large systems comprise the major part of the area 
of the region. The valleys are of low relief ;.they have been described as 
plains. The Atrato River Valley, draining into the Golfo de Uraba, is 
wide and also of low relief. Toward the south, above the headwaters of 
the Atrato, the character of the relief continues, but the gradient dips to 
the south and the San Juan River runs southward to enter the Pacific at 
Punta Charambira in Colombia. 

Darien is covered, for the most part, by several types of tropical forest. 
Onshore winds bring moisture from the warm Caribbean resulting in a 
rainfall varying between 100 and 200 inches a year. The northern slopes 
of the mountains and most of the interior valleys are covered with a dense 
tropical forest. Dry and wet seasons follow in regular succession over 
the entire area, but they are much more marked in the drier area bordering 
the Pacific coast, where ofifshore winds blow part of the year. In the lat- 
ter area the distribution of the tropical forest is irregular, but the vegeta- 
tion is lush, owing to large quantities of water caught in the poor drainage. 

Western Panama. — West of Darien an expanse of savanna borders 
the Pacific and extends as far as the mountains of Chiriqui, Panama. The 
environment of this area is similar to all lands occupying the Pacific side 
of Centr^ America. The climate is largely determined by accidents of 
location with respect to winter winds and summer monsoons, which bring 
out clearly marked dry and wet seasons. With the exception of local 
areas where the topography and other features aflFect the rainfall, these 
savannas and the Pacific coast in general support areas of semideciduous 
or scrub forest, between which grasslands flourish. The climate, though 
hot, is favorable, and the inhabitants could live above bare subsistence 

Between the Lowlands of the coast and the higher parts of the Uplands 
lies an area of hills and low ridges which topographically are part of the 
mountain systems. The environment of this little-known zone is very 
complex, but it appears to be analogous to that of the savannas. The cool 
nights, the occasional rains during the dry season, and possibly the special- 
ized fauna and flora make it hospitable to human occupancy ; at least some 
sections have, in the past, supported a relatively large population. 

The Isthmian Tropical Forest. — This area extends westward from 
the Panama Canal, a very arbitrary boundary, to the Nicaraguan Lowland. 
It includes the Caribbean watershed which, in Panama, is clearly bounded 
by the divide separating it from the Pacific slopes. The inland boundary 

653334 — 48 S 


in Costa Rica is very irregular and hard to fix. It follows the limits of 
the Caribbean drainage, excepting some areas on the upper reaches of 
some of the larger rivers. 

The area is divisible into a Coastal Lowland zone and an Upland zone. 
The Coastal Lowland is largely a poorly drained alluvial plain, much of it 
swampland, especially along the shore, behind the barrier beaches and along 
the meandering and irregularly flooding rivers. Except for occasional in- 
trepid travelers, the Panamanian Lowland has not been explored since the 
Spaniards lost interest in the area. A section of the Lowland, west of the 
Laguna de Chiriqui, sometimes called the Talamanca Plain, has been re- 
claimed. Strong onshore winds cause heavy surf to beat against the bar- 
rier beaches and to form sand bars blocking the river mouths. Navigation 
by canoe is hazardous if not impossible on the sea, but water travel is 
possible in the Laguna de Chiriqui and in the lower reaches of the rivers. 
With the exception of sections of Costa Rica, very little is known of the 
Upland zone. This area is marked by steep slopes and deep valleys in 
which swift rivers flow through rocky channels. In general, the climate 
of the Uplands is healthier than that of the Lowlands. 

Discussion and interpretation of the significance of the population pat- 
tern of the Isthmian Tropical Forest began in the 16th century, but the 
characteristics and necessities of life are still poorly understood. At the 
time of the Spanish conquest, when the aborigines did not have steel tools, 
it seems almost certain that very large areas of it had been cleared, and 
it appears to have been inhabited by a relatively large population. As a 
rule the headquarters of the several divisions of the population were located 
in the Uplands. Furthermore, there are vague suggestions of seasonal 
migrations of at least a portion of the population between the coastal Low- 
lands and the Uplands. After the Conquest, the characteristics of the oc- 
cupancy of this area changed. The population became smaller and more 
sedentary, and much of the cleared land reverted to impenetrable jungle. 
For several reasons, not the least of which was the forbidding environ- 
ment, the Spaniards concentrated their attention only upon the ports of 
entry and the lines of communication to the Pacific watershed, where, from 
their point of view, life was easier. From the time of its abandonment 
until a very few years ago, the Tropical Forest had been neglected by Euro- 
peans and remained an area in which refugee tribes could exist unmolested 
by their erstwhile conquerors. 


The mountains between the Province of Chiriqui and the Nicaraguan 
Lowlands may be divided into a number of subareas. 

Southern Costa Rica. — This subarea includes the Cordillera de Tala- 
manca and its eastward extension into the Province of Chiriqui, the Cordil- 
lera Brunquena, and the various basins and lowlands which lie within the 


mountain system and which border the Pacific coast. The most important 
basin is a structural depression drained by the Rio Diquis. The northern 
portion of this basin, called the Valle General, is drained by the Rio Gen- 
eral and the Rio Cabagua, tributaries of the Rio Diquis. The Terraba 
Plain occupies the southern and eastern portion of this depression border- 
ing the Cordillera Brunquena, through which the Rio Diquis has cut a 
narrow canyon. To the south lies the Peninsula of Osa, a hilly region 
running in a southeasterly direction to form the Golfo Dulce. The penin- 
sula is nearly cut off from the mainland by a low swampy area. 

The north shore of the Golfo Dulce is hilly and the slopes rise abruptly 
from the coast. To the east, however, lies an area of Lowland savanna and 
swampland, which extends eastward along the Pacific coast of Panama. 
The short valley of the Rio Goto and its tributaries opens onto these Low- 
lands and meanders across them to its mouth on the Golfo Dulce. The 
Lowland is interrupted by the hills surrounding the Pico Burica and the 
low ridge running south to Punta Burica. 

Central Costa Rica. — This is an area of relatively high altitude. North- 
east of Cartago and San Jose, four great volcanic cones, varying in altitude 
from 9,120 to 11,220 feet (2,779 to 3,409 m.), stand in a row, their bases 
merged into a massive volcanic pedestal. Between these and the mountains 
to the south lies the intermontane basin known as the Meseta Central. This 
basin, lying at an altitude between* 2,000 and 4,000 feet (about 650 to 
1,300 m.), is complex in structure and its surface is distinctly hilly. The 
southeastern part of the Meseta is drained by the Rio Raventazon, which 
empties into the Caribbean north of Puerto Limon. The northwestern 
part of the Meseta Central is drained by the Rio Grande, which enters the 
Golfo de Nicoya a little southeast of Puntarenas. The Cordillera Volcan- 
ica, extending in a northeasterly direction from the Meseta Central, gradu- 
ally decreases in altitude until, in Nicaragua, it forms only a hilly belt 
between Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific. 

The Nicoya Area. — This area lies to the south of the Cordillera Vol- 
canica, from which it is separated by the relatively wide and low valley of 
the Rio Tempisque, which empties into the head of the Golfo de Nicoya. 
The Peninsula de Nicoya is a range of hills to the south of this valley, 
running in a southeasterly direction to form the Golfo de Nicoya. The 
western margin of the area, fronting the Pacific, is composed of a low 
range of hills. 

The climate of all the southern or Costa Rica Highland area is exceed- 
ingly complex. Over most of the region the influences of the Pacific 
Ocean cause a dry and a wet season, but the differences between these 
seasons are not always extreme. Certain regions, particularly along the 
northern and eastern boundaries, are affected by trade winds from the 
Caribbean. Climate also varies with altitude and with the orientation of 
slopes in relation to prevailing winds and the sun. One slope of a valley 


may receive abundant rains, while a nearby slope is infertile because little 
or no rain falls upon it. The General Valley, the Terraba Plain, and the 
Meseta Central are well-watered, fertile areas. The Lowland areas border- 
ing the coast are very wet, having meandering rivers and most of them 
being poorly drained. Some of them are covered with mangrove swamps. 
The semideciduous and scrub forests of the Uplands give way to areas of 
lush vegetation in the wetter sections of the Lowlands.^ 


This region lies north of the Nicaraguan Lowland. It is closely related, 
geologically, to the Guatemalan Highlands, though not so high, and is 
composed of a volcanic plateau with the highest elevations in the south. 
The steep escarpment of the plateau faces toward the Lempa River Valley 
of El Salvador and continues southward bordering the Golfo de Fonseca 
and the northeastern side of the Nicaraguan Lowland. The east-west pat- 
tern of the folded and faulted structure of the mountains is obscured by 
volcanic deposits in the south, but the older structure is revealed in the 
north. The easterly pointing spurs dip beneath the sea along the north 
coast of Honduras. The Bay Islands are, presumably, peaks of these 
submerged ranges. The Highlands are characterized by steep-sided 
mountains rising above high intermontane basins and plateaus. 

The climate and vegetation patterns of the Northern Highlands are 
complex chiefly because extreme ranges of altitude are combined with a 
wide variation in the orientation of the slopes in relation to the prevailing 
winds and the sun. *Tn valleys and basins or on mountain slopes which 
are protected from the rain-bearing winds, the oak-pine forests, character- 
istic of the tierra templada and the tierra fria, may descend as low as 
2,000 feet (about 650 m.). No parts of the country are high enough to be 
above tree line ; but there are extensive savannas in relatively high places, 
such as those east of Tegucigalpa" (James, 1942, p. 689). In the eastern 
sections of the Nicaraguan Highlands, where the warm, moist winds from 
the Caribbean are forced to rise over the eastern slopes, the rainfall is very 
heavy and the forests are exceptionally thick. On the lower slopes of the 
mountains there is a drier belt, but the rainfall is sufficient to support a 
tropical rain forest. At high altitudes in Nicaragua the rainfall is more 
moderate and the temperature lower, permitting the growth of the oak 
and pine forests. These highlands mark the southernmost distribution of 
North American species of pines. 


This is a structural depression which runs in a northeasterly direction 
from the Caribbean Sea. The Tropical Forest extends up it nearly to San 
Carlos, where Lake Nicaragua empties into the Rio San Juan, The forest 

» For a brief description of the environment, cf. James, 1942. 


also covers sections of the valleys of tributaries of the San Juan, particular- 
ly those which drain the southern watershed of the Lowland. The north- 
ern side of the Lowland has a drier climate, perhaps because the orientation 
of the adjoining slopes produces local "rain shadows." 


This area in Nicaragua is the largest lowland plain in Central America. 
It is an alluvial plain, poorly drained by the meandering rivers which cross 
it. Huge portions of it are swampland unfit for human habitation. The 
people build their villages on natural levees bordering the rivers or upon 
the low rises near the coastal lagoons. The coast has a complicated series 
of sand bars and barrier beaches, behind which there are extensive lagoons. 
The latter fostered the development of a partially maritime existence among 
the coast dwellers. The Upland slopes, facing the Caribbean, support the 
heaviest tropical forest in Central America. This did not, however, prevent 
the people from inhabiting the river valleys in great numbers. 


This is a fringe of Lowland in Honduras which skirts the spurs of the 
mountains and extends for varying distances up the river valleys. It re- 
ceives great quantities of moisture from the Caribbean and supports a 
tropical forest. It is probable, however, that less rain falls here than else- 
where on the Caribbean coast. These Lowlands are composed of alluvial 
deposits washed off the slopes or deposited at the mouths of the rivers. 
Though of limited extent, they are usually poorly drained and dotted with 
swamps. The adjacent Uplands also support a tropical forest, which ex- 
tends inland to a very irregular line where the "Caribbean" and "Northern 
Highland" environments meet. For reasons not yet well known, the 
tropical forest occurs also in some of the northerly and higher sections of 
the Honduran Plateau. 



At the time of the Conquest the Darien region was inhabited by tribes 
speaking dialects belonging to two languages which the Spaniards named 
Coiba and Cueva. The meaning of these names in terms of existing dialects 
or tribes is not clear ; perhaps Coiba was a larger linguistic category. Cueva 
may now be extinct, having been spoken by a tribe which is no longer ex- 
tant. On the other hand, elements of Cueva may be present in the dialect 
spoken by the modern San Bias Cuna. 

The Choco Group. — The designation Choco, as a tribal name, does not 
occur in the early literature, though Oviedo y Valdes (1851-55, vol. 4, 

* The locations of the Central American tribes are shown on map 2. 

• The data on the Cuna and Choc6 are briefed from a manuscript submitted by D. B. Stout. 


p. 121) mentions a chief named Coquo, and the name Choco was applied 
to a province in 1575 (Wassen, 1935, p. 42). 

Beginning with Balboa in 1511, the Conquistadors made a series of 
explorations through various parts of the Choco area. In most cases they 
were driven back by the Choco, who were to be feared because of their 
poisonous weapons and perhaps also for their cannibalism. Successful 
entry of the country was not accomplished by Europeans until 1654, when 
missionaries established themselves there. They remained until 1687, and 
their work was carried on for a time by neophytes. Latterly, the Choco 
have been a peaceful people; in fact, during the 19th century they were 
described as more docile and less jealous of their independence than the 
neighboring Cuna. 

The Choco have remained aloof from the influences of the Europeans. 
They have never been employed away from their homeland in large num- 
bers, nor have they engaged in trade of commercial proportions. Negroes 
were introduced into the area very early and they have mixed with some 
of the Choco. These Negroes have replaced the Indians along the lower 
courses of the rivers. 

The Choco of modern times are composed of three groups: (1) The 
Northern or true Choco, (2) the Southern Choco, and (3) the Catio. The 
Northern Choco appear to be the most populous of the three. They dwell 
on the lower courses of the rivers flowing into the Golfo de San Miguel 
and along the rivers of the Pacific coast of Colombia. There is a concen- 
tration of this group on the Rio Baudo and on the Rio Saija. The Southern 
Choco are concentrated about the Rio San Juan, particularly on the Rio 
Docordo and on the Rio Micay. The Catio dwell in the eastern parts of 
the Atrato River valley. 

The Cuna Group. — The Cuna are divided into two sections. The main- 
land Cuna inhabit the headwaters of the rivers on the Pacific slope of 
eastern Panama, several small settlements in the lower Atrato Valley, and 
the eastern shore of the Golfo de Uraba. The San Bias Cuna inhabit the 
small islands along the Caribbean coast between the Golfo de San Bias 
and Cabo Tiburon. Throughout the historic period the area occupied by 
the Cuna has been steadily shrinking. The land vacated in the south and 
about the Golfo de Uraba has been taken up by Negroes and Choco. 

European and Negro contact began to affect the Cuna culture in 1540, 
^nd many Indians were enslaved. To escape this some of the Cuna 
retreated up the river valleys. Meanwhile bands of escaped Negro slaves 
settled on the borders of Cuna territory, where their descendents may still 
be found. 

Contact with Europeans was continued during the 17th and 18th cen- 
turies, when English and French pirates were based on the Cuna islands. 
Of significance also is the Scotch Darien Colony and the French Colony 
which existed between 1690 and 1757 at Concepcion. After the treaty 

5 E A 

P AC i 




Vte TftC SPMKHKOS ARfiiyeo 

(Face p. 50) 

Map 2.— The native tribes of Central America. (Prepared by Frederick Johnson.) 

(Face p. 50) 



of 1790 the Cuna lived at peace with the Spaniards. Subsequent to 1821 
the government of New Granada accepted in principle their independence. 

About the middle of the 19th century an extensive trade in tortoise 
shell, ipecac, vegetable ivory, and rubber developed. At the present time 
trade flourishes though it is largely restricted to coconuts. Formerly, 
Cuna men shipped aboard the English and American ships, which came 
at irregular intervals. Now, however, a regular trade is maintained by 
companies established at Colon, and the Cuna men have gradually given 
up the sea to work on the mainland. 

No missions were established among the mainland Cuna between the 
17th and 19th centuries. In 1907 Catholic and Protestant missionaries 
were finally established ainong the San Bias Cuna. They opened schools, 
which were later augmented by government-supported schools. Some of 
the pupils have continued their schooling in Panama City and Colon. 
This educational activity was interrupted in 1925 when one faction of 
the San Bias Cuna, encouraged and guided by an American, staged a 
revolution and attempted to form an independent government. Since then 
the reservation boundaries and laws, first established in 1915, have been 
clarified. The Panamanian Government has reservation offices at two 
islands, but the San Bias Cuna have title to the island and a strip of the 
coast. They possess the power to withhold from outsiders permission 
to buy, settle, or establish businesses on their island. 


The Guaymi Group. — The term Guayini was first loosely applied to 
the people living in the vicinity of the Laguna de Chiriqui. By 1578 the 
people inhabiting the Miranda Valley on the Rio Cricamola were identified 
as the Guaymi tribe, and soon after it was noted that they also inhabited 
the area to the east as far as the Rio Calovebora. The Indians on the 
southern, or Pacific, slopes of the Cordillera were not identified as Guaymi 
until 1631, when this term was applied to Indians living in Guabala and 
San Felix. A more definite record of Guaymi living in the environs of 
the village of Chiriqui was made in 1638. 

During the 16th century small groups of Gunymi broke off from the 
main tribe and moved westward to various locations along the Caribbean 
slopes of the mountains. These groups were allied for varying lengths 
of time with other tribes, e. g., the Terraha. During the first part of the 
17th century the Spaniards moved as many groups of Guaymi as they could 
conquer to southwestern Panama. Later, other tribes were moved from 
the Tropical Forest area to the Pacific coast, and the Guaymi moved 

• The information about the Gvayml was obtained by Frederick Johnson during 1932 and 1933. 
The two expeditions to Panami and much of the subsequent research were carried on under the 
auspices of the Peabody Museum, Harvard University. The information presented here ts briefed 
from an unfinished manuscript and is published by courtesy of the Museum. 


eastward into the central part of the coastal Lowlands of Chiriqui. Since 
this time the Guaymi have been, in fact still are, withdrawing into regions 
as remote as possible from European settlements. 

Recent studies have tended to emphasize the opinion of former students 
that the Guaymi inhabited the savanna area at the time of the Conquest. 
There is no proof of this, because the tribes inhabiting the savannas can- 
not to be classified in such detail. Several different languages were spoken 
in the savannas, but there is no proof that any one of these was Gxiaymi. 
The distribution of Guaymi on the savannas, based on vocabularies ob- 
tained since the beginning of the 19th century, may well represent only the 
location of descendants of Guaymi who were moved to the many mission 
towns during the 16th and 17th centuries. It is probable that some of the 
people indigenous to the savannas spoke languages related to Guaymi, just 
as they possessed a number of culture traits common to the whole region. 

The present-day Guaymi are composed of the Guaymi proper and a mix- 
ture of numerous groups who have fled from European domination. The 
people occupy most of the northern and sections of the southern slopes of 
the Cordillera, particularly of the Serrania de Tabasara. In general the 
Guaymi do not frequent the coastal regions in large numbers or, if they 
do, they do not occupy them for long periods of time. 

The modern boundaries of the Guaymi are indefinite, for this group is 
surrounded by peoples of mixed blood who are under more direct control 
of the Panamanian Government. In general the Guaymi are found be- 
tween the Panama-Costa Rica boundary and the longitude of Santa Fe, 
Province of Veraguas. Mixed but unclassifiable groups, some of whom 
acknowledge their aboriginal descent, are found scattered about Chiriqui 
and Veraguas, particularly on the Asuero Peninsula. 

Pinart's (1885, p. 438) identification of subtribes of the Guaymi is sub- 
stantially correct. It is likely that these subtribes are the remnants of 
aboriginal sociopolitical divisions. 

The Move have their headquarters in the Miranda Valley and on the 
Rio Cricamola. They also live on the Caribbean slopes of the mountains 
between the Laguna de Chiriqui and the Rio Belen. Scattered members 
of this group may be found in the Highlands of Chiriqui and on the Pacific 
slopes of the Serrania de Tabasara. 

The Murire live in the eastern sections of the Serrania de Tabasara and 
are said to inhabit sections of the Caribbean coast and Upland as far east 
as the Rio Code del Norte. Strongly Hispanicized remnants live in the 
eastern sections of the Pacific watershed. In the west, the Murire and 
Move either occupy neighboring localities or else representatives of one 
group live among the others. 

The Muoi have practically disappeared as a unit if present information 
can be trusted. At one time they lived about Chorcha and along the Rio 


Fonseca in the Province of Chiriqui, a location to which they may have 
migrated after 1600. 

The Talamanca group. — The Dorasque. — In contrast to some lin- 
guistic classifications this tribe, politically and socially, was apparently 
closely allied to the Changuena at the time of the Conquest. This relation- 
ship may be followed through the incomplete records into the latter part 
of the 19th century. In the 16th century the Dorasque were living be- 
tween the Changuena and the Guaymi. Boundaries mentioned are the 
Rio Guarano and the Rio Cricamola. Following the conquest the Dorasque 
joined the Changuena in order to combat the Spaniards and to protect 
themselves from the raids of the Mosquito and the English buccaneers. 
The attacks of the latter are said to have resulted in a retreat into Terraba 
territory and an amalgamation or at least a federation with them. Finally, 
the combined Terraba and Dorasque-Changuena retreated to the former 
home of the Changuena. After this the movements of the Dorasque are 
obscure until the very last records of them. The Dorasque, allied with 
some Cltanguena, were to be found south of Cerro Horqueta, on the Rio 
Chiriqui and in the environs of Caldera, Potrero de Vargas, Dolega, and 
possibly Guabala. Dolega was an ancient mission of the Dorasque. It is 
doubtful if any true Dorasque are alive today. 

The Changuena. — This tribe was said by the early Spaniards to be 
located in the mountainous region southwest of Almirante Bay, along 
the Rio Robalo, and about the headwaters of the Rios Changuena, Bun, 
and Puan. Andrade (1709) says that they numbered about 5,000. A 
few Changuena were reported living in their native region by Gabb 
( 1875, p. 486) . In 1900, a few families, said to be "Chelibas" and closely 
related to the Changuena, were living to the north of the Volcan de 
Chiriqui on the headwaters of the Changuinola River. Other Changuena 
moved to the Pacific coast with the Terraba and Dorasque. They are said 
to have settled in regions northeast of Burica and the Golfo Dulce, They 
are now extinct or inextricably mixed with the Bribri, Terraba, and 

The Terraba. — The Terraba lived in the Lowlands and lower Uplands 
between the Rios Sixaola and Changuinola. They also occupied some of 
the islands at the mouth of the Laguna de Chiriqui. The Tojar, either 
a subtribe or a name synonymous with the Terraba, lived on the island 
of Tojar as late as 1763. The Terraba, particularly a subgroup called 
the Quequexque, were said to occupy lands adjacent to Guaymi territory. 
Some of the Terraba were removed to a mission in southeastern Costa 
Rica, now the village of Terraba. Other groups migrated in company 
with the Dorasque and Changuena. 

^The Boruca.—Dovis Stone (1943) correctly notes that the modem 
Boruca are probably composed of a mixture of tribes indigenous to the 


Terraba Plain and neighboring regions. Probably, also, the tribe includes 
increments from tribes moved into the region in the 16th and 17th cen- 
turies. The early information is equivocal. The Boruca may be the 
descendants of the Coto, who were enemies of the Quepo. On the other 
hand, the Boruca, first identified as a tribe living in the environs of Pico 
Burica, may have counted the Quepo and Coto as subtribes. This latter 
alignment is used here because the earliest information which has come 
to hand implies some such political organization. The language of the 
Boruca has been classified with that of the Dorasque and CJtmiguena. 
That of the Quepo has been linked, at least by implication, with the Guetar 
language. The data prevent the construction of any satisfactory conclu- 
sion. (Peralta, 1901, p. 130; Lehmann, 1920, vol. 1, p. 201 ; Stone, 1943.) 
The Brihri. — The origin of the name Bribri is obscure. It first appears 
in the literature of the 19th century, and it may have been derived from 
Viceita or some equivalent form. In 1709 it was suggested that the 7,000 
Viceitas could be removed to Boruca, but nothing concerning the outcome 
of t lis proposal has come to light. Nothing is known of their early home. 
Gal b ( 1875, p. 486) places the Brihri on the east side of the Rio Coen, 
wh« re they occupied all the Lari, Uren, and Zhorquin River Valleys. 
Th( same author says that the term Biceita was not known as a tribal 
name in 1875. Peralta (1890, p. 70) says that the Rio Sixaola flows, 
from its sources to the sea, through the territories of Cabecares and 

The Cabecar. — It is impossible to identify this tribe in the earlier docu- 
ments. It is probable that, like the Bribri, they were closely related to 
the Guetar, although some authors claim that their language was dis- 
tinctive (Pinart, 1900; Lehmann, 1920). The first definite record of their 
location was made by Gabb (1875, p. 486), who says that the Cabecar 
lived between the frontiers of civilization and the western banks of the 
Rio Coen. 

The Central Costa Rica group. — The Guetar. — The Guetar were 
named for a chief, Huetar, who lived to the north and east of Punta de 
Herradura. In addition to Huetar himself, the records mention four 
other chiefs who controlled political divisions of varying sizes and impor- 
tance. These chiefs were named Garabito, Guarco, Pacaca, and Asseri. 
The actual political system and its divisions are obscure and puzzling. 
It is possible, though believed by some to be doubtful, that there was a 
strong intertribal organization even before the Conquest. The territory 
ruled over by the chiefs mentioned above extended from the eastern shore 
of the southern section of the Golfo de Nicoya across Costa Rica to the 
Caribbean. On the Caribbean coast the Guetar inhabited the area extend- 
ing from the vicinity of Port Limon northward to the region about the 
mouth of the Pacuare River. 


The Northern Costa Rica group.— The Voto.— "These Indians oc- 
cupied the valleys of the San Carlos, Pocosal and Saraqui Rivers. To 
the south they extended to the Cordillera Central, and probably across 
these mountains into the Province of Alajuela" (Lothrop, 1926 b, p. 16). 
The Voto were a separate tribe, but they were tributary to the Guetar 
chieftain Garabito. Doris Stone (correspondence), following Gabb 
(1875), says that the Voto "continue today as the Rama in Nicaragua." 
Remnant groups may have been absorbed by the Rama. At the present 
writing, however, the only way to distinguish the two tribes is through 
detailed linguistic analysis, and until this has been accomplished Gabb's 
statement must remain tentative. 

The Suerre. — The Suerre lived on the Atlantic coast of Costa Rica 
behind the Laguna de Tortuguero and around the mouths of the Rios 
Raventazon and Pacuare. Four chieftains were said to be members of 
this tribe, but nothing is known concerning them. They were named 
Suerre, Chiuppa, Camachire, and Cocori. 

The Guetar, Voto, and Suerre tribes were conquered very early, and 
members of other tribes, particularly from southern Costa Rica, were 
moved into their villages. The languages of the three tribes were closely 
related to those spoken in southern and eastern Costa Rica. The known 
characteristics of their culture indicate the same close relationship with 
the tribes to the south. These three tribes had, however, little if any 
formal relationship with their neighbors. The existing records have been 
summarized by Lothrop (1926 b), the principal source of the preceding 

The Corobtci. — The Corobici take their name from a chieftain en- 
countered by Gil Gonzalez Davila. In early Spanish times the Corobici 
lived along the southern shores of Lake Nicaragua between the Rio Frio 
and the Cordillera Volcanica. Some claim they inhabited the Solentiname 
Islands in Lake Nicaragua; others say that the people on these islands 
were a branch of the Rama. Probably the Corobici occupied a tongue of 
territory extending westward across the Cordillera de Tilleran and through 
the valley of the Rio Tenorio to the northern shore of the Golfo de Nicoya. 
As the Spaniards conquered the country the Corobici retreated to the 
plains about San Carlos. Later, as Guatuso, they occupied the inaccessible 
region about the headwaters of the Rio Frio and perhaps also the valleys 
of the Rios Zapote, Guacalito, and Cucaracha to the west (Rivet, 1924, 
p. 681). Apparently separate enclaves, which may have been either in- 
digenous or fugitive groups, were to be found in the region between 
Bagaces and Esparata. About the middle of the 18th century these groups 
raided and plundered the countryside, but they were driven back to the 
north across the Cordillera. Between that time and about 1860 the 
Guatuso lived in comparative seclusion in the upper sections of the Rio 
Frio Valley. Recent exploration and conquest of the valley has resulted 


in the decimation of the Guatuso. Some were captured and sold as 
slaves in Nicaragua. (Lothrop, 1926, b; Conzemius, 1930; Fernandez, 
1889, pp. 622-640.) At the present time remnants of the Guatuso live 
in upper sections of the Rio Frio. 

Some students do not agree with the location and implied relationships 
given above. Lines (1938 a) states that the Guatuso were originally 
Guetar and that, because they were neighbors of the "Chontal" and 
"Chorotega," their "race" has become very mixed. Conzemius (1930, p. 
105) implies that the Corobici are different from the Guatuso, and he be- 
lieves that the latter are descendants of the people who live in Aranjuez 
and El Garabita. These two towns and the descendants from the original 
inhabitants are now believed to be Guetar. A note by Conzemius to the 
efifect that some Guatuso on the Rio Frio are actually Rama Indians may 
well be due either to recent undocumented wanderings of the latter or to 
variations in the interpretation of linguistic data. The early data cannot 
be interpreted in this way. 

Doris Stone (correspondence) quotes the statement by Oviedo y Valdes 
to the effect that the Corobici inhabited the Chara and Pocosi Islands in 
the Golfo de Nicoya, and she is led to suspect that the Nicoya Peninsula 
was once Corobici territory. This suspicion is not based upon records 
made during the Conquest or later, for it is recorded that this territory was 
occupied by the Orotina during and subsequent to the 16th century-. In 
this case, Oviedo's statement refers only to the islands. The delimitation 
of the habitat of the prehistoric Corobici depends upon the discovery, on 
the peninsula and elsewhere, of cultural material which may be identified 
as the product of Corobici industry. 

The Rama. — The records indicate that the Rama probably lived on the 
Caribbean coast of Nicaragua between Bluefields and the Rio San Juan. 
Some authors believe that their southern border lay at the Rio Punta 
Gorda. The location of the northern boundary is by no means certain. 
At the present time the principal settlement of Rama is on Rama Key in 
the Laguna de Bluefields. A few scattered settlements are found between 
this island and Punta Gorda. Conzemius (1930, p. 94) says that the 
language is spoken by about 270 persons. 

The former western boundary of the Rama is indeed vague. They 
appear to have inhabited the San Juan River Valley and probably sections 
of the hinterland to the north. The Melchora (Squier, 1852, p. 79 ; 1853 a, 
p. 94 f), a group of unknown origin, were probably Rama living in the 
middle reaches of the Rio San Juan. Vague suggestions of the existence 
of political units justifies the assumption that the Rama were confined to 
the area east of Lake Nicaragua. There is the possibility that Roma 
families, or small enclaves of this tribe, have lived among the Guatuso since 
the middle of the 18th century, if not before. (For arguments identifying 
Rama groups in northwestern Costa Rica, cf. Conzemius, 1930.) 



The information from the accounts of the first conquerors and the few 
colonists of this region is exceedingly small in quantity, and it is equivocal. 
Some references employ the term "Chontal," but it is impossible to know 
whether these refer to enclaves of "foreign" origin or whether this term 
was applied by early writers to the ancestors of the present population. 
The Lowlands and the lower Uplands of the hinterland were inhabited 
by peoples now called the Mosquito and Sumo. Unfortunately, the records 
made previous to the end of the 17th century supply information for but 
a small section of the Mosquito coast. Early information about the inland 
peoples is practically nonexistent. 

The Mosquito coast was discovered by Columbus on his fourth voyage. 
Between that time and the middle of the 17th century the country was 
only occasionally visited by Europeans. The coast became a refuge for 
the English buccaneers who, after the middle of the 17th century, estab- 
lished themselves at Cabo Gracias a Dios. The ensuing alliance between 
the English and Indians resulted in the expansion of the territory of the 
local tribe at the expense of its aboriginal neighbors. Effective raids, 
particularly against Spanish settlements, were made along the coast as far 
south as the Laguna de Chiriqui. As a consequence of this alliance the 
aboriginal culture was profoundly modified. 

By 1688 the buccaneers were masters of the Mosquito coast and they 
made the Mosquito chief governor general of it under the jurisdiction of 
the English Government at Jamaica. Before long the English established 
a protectorate over the coast and even sent troops there in 1744. Spain 
protested this action, and following the treaty of 1786 England evacuated 
the territory. Spain was, however, unable to establish effective control 
in the region. 

In 1821 the English protectorate was renewed. The Mosquito Chief 
was crowned King in 1825, and it was claimed that his territory extended 
from Cabo Gracias a Dios to the Laguna de Chiriqui. Later the southern 
boundary was relocated at the Rio San Juan. The Mosquito King ruled 
until 1860 when, through the intervention of the United States, the English 
ceded part of their territory to Honduras and the remainder to Nicaragua. 
A section lying between the Rio Hueso and the Rio Rama, extending in- 
land to longitude 84° 15' N., was set aside as a reservation governed by 
the natives under Nicaraguan sovereignty. The population of this reserva- 
tion was composed for the most part of English-speaking "Creoles," the 
mixed descendants of Jamaican Negroes and Mosquito and some Rama 
Indians. The majority of the aboriginal groups lived outside the reserve. 
After a long series of difficulties the Nicaraguan Government, in 1894, 

' The following information is a rearrangement of data submitted by Kirchhofl. Data from 
manuscripts by Doris Stone and Frederick Johnson have been added. 


took possession of the reservation incorporating it into the republic as the 
Department of Zelaya, now the Department of Bluefields, 

The Mosquito group. — The account of the fourth voyage of Columbus 
and the few 17th century descriptions of the Mosquito coast are difficult 
to evaluate in terms of the more adequate later descriptions. It is probable 
that Mosquito were living between Cabo Gracias a Dios and the Rio 
Wawa. Either the inhabitants of much of the coast to the south were 
unknown or else early descriptions of them have been lost. The first 
satisfactory record was made by Exquemelin in 1672. He found them 
divided into two subtribes, one located at Cabo Gracias a Dios and the 
other at "Mostique" (Sandy Bay?). Contemporary writers (e. g., 
Raveneau de Lussan, 1689; "M. W." in 1699 [1752]) mention the wreck 
of a slave ship, in 1641, which freed about 200 Negroes. These took 
refuge among the Mosquito at Cabo Gracias a Dios, and, as has been 
emphasized by many writers down to the present day, they were largely 
responsible for the primary introduction of African traits into the culture 
of the Mosquito coast. 

Some 150 years after Exquemelin's observations (1672) the Mosquito 
occupied all important river basins between Cabo Gracias a Dios and 
the Rio San Juan. They had also disrupted the distribution of the fugitive 
populations who had attempted to settle in the Lowland regions between 
the San Juan and the Laguna de Chiriqui. By the beginning of the 19th 
century bands or subtribes of Mosquito were identifiable. Today 5 of 
these, with a population of about 15,000, are known. These appear as dis- 
tinct political units, but their languages may differ only slightly. Attempts 
to point out differences in their ethnology (cf. esp. Conzemius, 1932) are 
significant, but further detailed study in the field is necessary before they 
may be fully accepted. 

Inevitably, most of the Mosquito have mixed with Negroes. Latterly, 
mixtures between the Indian-Negro-European populations and the Mos- 
quito have been frequent. The strongest mixture of Negro blood has 
been observed among the Baldam and Cabo. The Baldam were first 
known about Sandy Bay, but a part of the group has migrated to the 
Laguna de las Perlas. The Cabo live along the coast between Sandy 
Bay and the Rio Grande. The Mam moved to the Rio Patuca, absorbing 
some of the indigenous Paya and driving the remainder to the west. The 
IVanki remained in the valley of the Rio Wanks and, according to Conze- 
mius, they are moving up the river. By 1932 they had reached the town 
of Bocay, The Tawira live a short distance from the Coast, between 
Sandy Bay and the Rio Grande. The Mam and Wanki call the Mosquito 
living south of Cabo Gracias a Dios "Tawira" (heavy-haired). The Caho 
and Baldam call themselves "True Mosquito." 

The Sumo group. — Sumo is a generic name given by the Mosquito to 
a number of tribes speaking a language closely related to Mosquito. They 


now number between 3,000 and 4,000 people, and they occupy the lower 
Uplands and upper sections of the river valleys west of the Caribbean 
coast in Honduras and Nicaragua. Almost nothing in the 16th-centurv 
documents can be construed as a description of the Sumo, and, as a matter 
of fact, little was known of them until the very last of the 17th century. 
Beginning with the 18th century, the increasing amount of information, 
principally from travelers' accounts, defines 10 subtribes of which 6 are 
now either extinct or combined with other groups. 

Some Twahka live in five villages located in Honduras along the middle 
reaches of the Rio Patuca. These are slowly being absorbed by the Mos- 
quito. Other members of the Twahka have migrated to Nicaragua, where 
they live in the lower reaches of the Rios Waspuk, Lakus (Lecus?), 
Wawa, Cuculaya, Hamaco, and even Prinzapolca and Rio Grande. The 
closest linguistic relatives of the Twalika are the Panamaka, who prefer 
to call themselves "Twahka" (= True Sumo). 

The Panamaka live along the tributaries of the Wanks River. Relatively 
pure groups have been found on the Rios Bocay, Pis Pis, and Kwabul ( ?). 
Two groups of Panamaca have moved to the upper reaches of the Rio 
Prinsapolca and the Rio Grande. 

The Bawahka were expelled from the Rios Wawa and Cuculaya by the 
Twahka. They live today on the Rio Banbana. 

The Ulva, the southernmost Sumo, live today along the upper reaches 
of the Rio Grande and the Rio Escondido. It is likely that other unre- 
corded enclaves are still extant. Early knowledge of this tribe in eastern 
Nicaragua is scanty. They were probably neighbors of the Rama, occupy- 
ing a stripe of territory between Lake Nicaragua and the coast. They also 
occupied sections of southern Jinotega and were distributed to the west 
along the northern slopes of the Nicaraguan Lowland, extending through 
Honduras into eastern El Salvador (Ponce, 1873, vol. 1 ; Squier, 1860 a). 
They occupied the western parts of their territory in company with Choro- 
tega, Nahuatlan, and possibly even Lenca, Mafagalpa, and other groups. 

Owing to continuous wars with the Mosquito, the Kukra have only 
recently been exterminated as a subtribe, but individuals still live in their 
native haunts, i. e., about the Laguna de Bluefields and on the Corn Islands. 
The Yosco « lived on the Rio Tuma in territory which was invaded by 
the Panamanca and Ulva. Tradition has it that the Yosco were killed off 
because they were sodomites. The Prinsu lived on the lower Rio Prinsa- 
polca, a region now inhabited by the Tawira. The Tunla, speaking a 
dialect resembling Bawahka, were a mixture of Prinsu and Tawira. The 
Boa formerly lived on the upper Rio Kcwaska (?), and the Silam and 
the Ku inhabited the valley of the Rio Waspuk. 

« It is believed by some that the Yosco language differed from other Sumo dialects (cf. Mason, 
T. A.. 1940; Johnson, 1940). 



North Coast group.— The Paya.— Stone (1941, etc.) advances the 
idea that the term "Taia" recorded by Columbus is an early spelling of 
the modern term Paya. Tlie territory of the Paya, she believes, lay between 
the Aguan River Valley and the Wanks River and extended southward 
to the Olancho and Jamastran Valleys. The date of the establishment of 
these boundaries corresponds with the settlement of the country following 
the Conquest. It is possible that there was a southward drift of the Paya, 
who took refuge in the interior from the Spanish attacks on the coast. 
Possibly the interior boundaries were modified by this movement. More 
conservative interpretations locate the early Paya along the coast between 
the Patrum and Wanks Rivers. 

Conzemius (1927-28) lists the towns of El Carbon and El Dulce 
Nombre (Culmi), saying that 250 to 300 Paya Indians may be found in 
each. Also, 30 Paya live in El Payal, on the Paulaya River, and 40 Indians 
live in Puskira, located on the Plantain River 15 km, (about 10 miles) 
from the coast. Stone (1941) accepts Squier's statement that the Seco 
on the Tinto River were a band of Paya. If these are the Seco mentioned 
by Young (1842) they should be located on the Rio Sico (Seco), a tribu- 
tary of the Rio Negro (also called Tinto) in northeastern Honduras. The 
descendants of the Seco of the Rio Sico are to be found in the neighbor- 
hood of El Carbon (Conzemius, 1927-28). Stone (1941) also says that 
the Towka were probably Paya. Conzemius believes that these people 
were Sumo, as their name suggests. The identification of the original 
inhabitants of Catacamas is difficult. Stone believes that they were Paya, 
and Conzemius says that they may have been Sumo. 

In 1921 there were a few more than 600 Paya (Conzemius, 1927-28). 
At the end of the 18th century Ramon de Anguiano estimated that there 
were 10,000 to 12,000 Paya. This estimate seems to be greatly exag- 
gerated. Sapper (1899) estimated 825. Kirchhoff believes that Fray 
Espino was referring to Paya when he said, in 1674, that he settled 6,000 
in 7 villages. It is probable that Espino was referring to Jicaque. 

The Jicaque. — Stone (cf. esp. 1941) has, through recent interpretations 
of the documents, thrown new light upon the "Jicaque Area." She has 
emphasized the possibility that the term Jicaque is of Nahuatlan origin and 
that it was used as one of the "terminos provinciales," as were such terms 
as Chontal, Pupuluca, and, to a more limited extent perhaps, Lenca and 
Paya. In her opinion Jicaque was applied to peoples speaking languages 
and having cultural traditions which differ from the present-day Jicaque. 
This opinion depends largely upon the interpretation of Vazquez (1714- 
16), from whom later writers drew much of their material. 

In later times the term Jicaque was used by anthropologists to designate 
the language spoken by the inhabitants of Yoro, southern Atlantida, and 
Cortes. Because of difficulties with tribal terminology it is still impos- 


sible to trace the history of the people now called Jicaque back into proto- 
historic times. However, Von Hagen (1943) has attempted to identify 
earlier groups. He locates more recently extinct groups and completely 
Hispanicized remnants in the Sierra de Omoa, the Ulua-Chamelicon 
Valley, and in the Departments of Yoro and Atlantida. He also accepts 
18th- and 19th-century identifications of the Jicaque de Palmar and the 
Jicaque de Yoro. The Jicaque tribe, which he names Torr.upan, left the 
town of Yoro in 1865 and moved to their present location on the Montafia 
de la Flor. 


The Matagalpa group and tribe. — Information concerning the Mata- 
galpa is limited. They spoke a language related to Ulva and Sumo. At 
the present time knowledge of them is confined almost exclusively to their 
language. The early information indicates that the language was spoken 
in northwestern Nicaragua and southwestern Honduras. An enclave 
speaking a language related to Matagalpa, usually called Cacaopera, was 
identified soon after the Conquest in northeastern El Salvador. Remnants, 
strongly Hispanicized, have been reported near Cacaopera in eastern EI 
Salvador. Other groups have been located along the Nicaraguan- 
Honduran frontier, around the Pantasma Valley, near Esteli in Nicaragua 
(Stone, correspondence) , and at Lislique. Another group has been located 
near the town of Matagalpa. 

The Lenca group.^ — The term Lenca first appears in the chronicle of 
Padre Francisco Vazquez (1714—16), who uses the reports of a Franciscan 
friar, Padre Espino, to recount the conquest of the Honduran Province of 
Teguzgalpa (Tegucigalpa). Vazquez designates certain Indians as mem- 
bers of the Lenca nation, e.g., Paraka, but at the same time includes the 
Jicague as speaking the Lenca tongue. He makes the following significant 
statement, however; ". . . the Lenca Indians of confused language, and 
treacherous character and inconstant" (Vazquez, 1714—16, lib. 5, trat. 1, 
cap. 7, p. 447). Squier (1858) was the first to apply this term to the 
Indians in southwestern Honduras, particularly those around Quajiquiro, 
in the present Department of La Paz, and in Intibuca. The language of 
these people differs from the idiom of the Paraka and other people who are 
still found in parts of eastern Honduras. We must, therefore, accept Lenca 
as a general term to cover a number of different peoples and dialects, both 
those of definite interrelationship and those which may have only remote 
if any connection with one another. 

Words ending in "-ique," "-quin," "-guara," and "-gua" are Lenca 
(Squier, 1908; Lehmann, 1920). The former distribution of the Lenca 
can be traced fairly accurately by the place names on the present-day maps 
of Honduras and El Salvador. At the present time we designate as Lenca 

* This section was written by Doris Stone. 
653334—48 6 


the Indians inhabiting the mountainous regions of the Departments of 
La Paz, Intibuca, southern and southeastern Gracias in Honduras, and 
the northeastern portion of the Republic of El Salvador.^" 

Tribal divisions, population, and distribution. — The Lenca seek high 
country and isolated peaks and hillocks, cultivating their cornfields in the 
small sloping cavities of the hillsides and in the Upland narrov\r valleys. 
Each community is formed by a separate tribe, often with a slight difference 
in dialect (Squier, 1858; also personal observation of the writer). To- 
day, unfortunately, the language has almost entirely disappeared, surviving 
only among the elders in the more remote towns, e. g., Quajiquiro. The 
villages in the Lenca area receive their names from the tribes inhabiting 

La Paz, according to the Honduran Government statistics, has 18,589 
pure-blooded Indians : 8,861 males and 9,728 females. The chief pure- 
Indian towns in La Paz are : Gualazara, Muyen, Guascupuscua, Chinacla, 
Ato Viejo, Santa Elena, Mata Palo, Pitahayas, Barrancarai, Aguanquete- 
rique, Quajiquiro, Sabana Larga, Tepanguare, Lepaguare, Ranteca, 
Chichicaste, Guaspopolo, Guidinmani, Chiderique, Orovila, Sigamani, 
Choacapa, Inchulile, Guanga, Guascotoro, Pule, Upa, Apacilina, Gruiraca- 
ray, Suyate, Kukinca, and Yarula. 

Opatoro, Cacaoterique, Puringla, and Cabanas (formerly Similaton) 
have also a large Indian population, although some Hondurans live in 
the townships. 

Intibuca has 32,707 Indians: 15,669 males and 17,083 females. The 
pure-Indian towns are: Semane, Chogola, Malguare, La Silimani, Guas- 
cotoro, Monquecagua, Quiaterique, Misiure, Oloas, Siquire, Yace, Chupu- 
cai, Segua, Cangual, Jagua, Cacauchagua, Cacahuatal, Masaya, Cotala, 
Yamaranguila, Jiquinlata, Coloraringua, El Talquekzal, Kiragiiira, 
Guatateca, Cosongra, Cirisma, and Dolores, the former Yolula, Intibuca, 
the town, has Honduran inhabitants, and their number seems to be 
increasing. In addition to this, a portion of the community, called La 
Esperanza, is completely Honduran, which quite naturally influences the 
life of the indigenous side. A street is the dividing line between 
the two towns. Many of the Indians from Intibuca have moved to 
Yamaranguila to be more to themselves. 

Gracias has a total of 5,659 Indians. Gracias, however, was at one 
time very heavily populated by Spaniards. The Departmento is a meeting 
ground for the Chorti from Copan and Ocotepeque, with the remnants 
of what were possibly the ancient Pipil, who are still found around 
Ocotepeque. Only the southeastern part of the Department is occupied 
by Lenca, the exact number of whom is not known. In this section some 

M Ponce (1873), among others, describes a tribe named Poton who inhabited southeastern El 
Salvador. The identity of this group is not clear. That they were a discrete unit seems certain. 
Their language has been identified as Maya, Ulva, Nahuatlan, and Lenca by different authors, but 
as yet no satisfactory decision can be made. — Frederick Johnson. 


of the towns can be classed as Lenca, e. g., Cerquin, Congolon, Tixila, 
Gualcixe, and Guanajulque. 

In El Salvador most of the towns on the northeastern frontier have 
some Lenca inhabitants, 


There have been at least four migrations from the north into Central 
America of peoples known as Meso- Americans (KirchhofT, 1943). To 
these may be added the possibility of a less extensive but significant 
tendency of the Lenca to push southward. The consequences of the migra- 
tions were that when one group replaced another in a restricted area 
repercussions were felt over the length and breadth of the land. Although 
the first of these movements began during the middle of the Christian 
Era, they were continuing at the time of the Spanish Conquest. The 
tribes herein discussed were thus in a state of flux, and so, to a lesser 
degree perhaps, were their indigenous neighbors. 

The mapping of the tribes in this division is particularly difficult. Discus- 
sions of their location are many and few agree (cf. Lehmann, 1920; 
Johnson, 1940; Stone, 1940 b, 1941). As these Meso- American immi- 
grants carved living space for themselves out of lands formerly owned by 
indigenous peoples, their territory inevitably changed with the fortunes of 
their conflict with indigenous tribes. The scene of this struggle, when 
first viewed by the Spaniards, was inevitably a complicated one : Peoples 
speaking several languages and possessing different cultural traditions 
were trying to exist as local entities, though occupying neighboring towns 
scattered over the countryside without regard for linear boundaries. The 
"aboriginal" population had been fragmented through the conquests by 
waves of people with different cultural heritages. 

The present location of a few of the remnants of these peoples is shown 
on map 2. Most of these tribes are extinct, at least as units identifiable 
with those recorded in the 16th and 17th centuries. Remnants have 
taken refuge in regions on the fringes of the modern population, which 
is relatively heavy in this area. These remnants are strongly Hispanicized 
and, to some extent, mixed with other Indian populations, which were 
moved into the region during early Colonial resettlement programs or 
which were attracted to it because of economic motives, the region recently 
having been almost completely Europeanized. 

The Chorotega group. — The tribes of this group, named with terms 
which probably designated dialects, were the descendants of the first 
definitely identifiable migration from the north. Their language is related 
to that spoken by the Otomi, Popoloca, Masateca, and Chmpanec of 
Mexico. Choluteca was spoken along the northern shores of the Golfo 
de Fonseca. Mangue was spoken in the area between lake Managua 

"This section combines data contributed by Doris Stone and Frederick Johnson. 



tB.A.E. Bull. 143 

and the Pacific. Stone (correspondence) has identified an enclave speak- 
ing Mangue near Quepos in Costa Rica, but its "tribal" identity is not 
revealed. Nagrmidan and Dirian are two enclaves speaking some form 
of Mangue; they are named after chiefs. The Orotina occupied the Nicoya 
area, extending westward to Lake Nicaragua. They also were discovered 
on the north shore of the Golfo de Nicoya west of Puntarenas. 

The Maribio group. — The second migration ended when a tribe, whose 
language was first called Maribio and later named Subtiaba, settled in 
the area about Leon in Guatemala. After the Conquest the Subtiaba were 
reduced to a few survivors living to the east of their 16th-century home. 
Squier obtained a vocabulary from Subtiaba remnants living about the 
town of Subtiaba. The Maribichicoa were a group which split off from 
the Subtiaba during a famine which occurred before the Conquest. 

The Nahuatlan group. — The third and fourth migrations to this area 
were composed of peoples speaking several forms of Nahuatlan. 
These people brought with them some of the historical and other traditions 
of their parent nation and the penchant for incorporating their contempo- 
rary history into their extensive folklore. The earliest of these migrations 
brought the Nicarao who, by the end of the 11th century, had settled on 
the Isthmus of Rivas. Of the other enclaves, the time of arrival can be 
determined only in the case of those groups which arrived just before 
the Spanish Conquest. The Nahuatlato lived on Punta Conseguina until 
1586, when they were moved to the towns of El Vie jo and Chinandega. 
The Desagicadero, apparently a commercial colony, lived on the delta 
of the Rio San Juan. The identity of the Bagace is not certain, but 
apparently some people spoke Nahuatlan near that town. The Sigua, 
with members of the Terraba and other tribes, occupied the Island of 
To jar and part of the delta of the Changuena River. Other small groups 
speaking Aztec or Pipil but lacking specific names have been identified 
in various parts of Honduras and Nicaragua. Their approximate location 
is indicated on the map. 

Classification of Tribes in Central America 




Subtribes and Synonyms 




Northern or True 

Southern Choco , 
f Mainland Cuna Cunacuna. 

r Cholo, Empera, Em- 
<, berak, Citara, Paparo, 
I Andag^eda. 

\ Nonama, Noaname. 


San Bias Cuna 

r Chucuna, Tulc, Man- 
. J dinga, Bayano, Chepo, 
1 Chucunaque, Paya, 
I Caiman. 

Vol. 4] 






Subtribes and Synonyms 

' Guaymi 

["Northern Guaymi 

Southern Guaymi 

' Dorasque * 







' Murire, Muoi, Move, 
Valiente, Culantro, 
Nuite, Norteno, Bu- 
kuete, Artieda, Cha- 
liva. (For additions, 
c£. Lehmann, 1920, and 

Protohistoric and early 
historic enclaves lo- 
cated in the savanna 
area. (Cf. Lothrop, 

r Dorace, Dorado, Irabalo, 
Chiriluo, Suasimi, 
Chumulu, Dolega, 

J Changuina, Chaliba ' 
I Shelaba. ' 

f Tojar, Techi, Tirub, 
I Tirribi, Techbi, Tichbi, 
Depso, Norteno, Que- 
quexque, Terrebe, 

r Burica, Brunka, Quepo, 
-I Burucaca, Turucaca, 
L Goto. 

' Blancos, Valientes, 
Biseita, Veceita, 
Biceyta, Abicetava, 
Talamanca, Urinama, 
Pocosi, Lari, 

{Cavecara, Coen, 
Chirripo, Tucurriqui, 

Central Costa 


[ Guarco, Garabito, 
< Pacaca, Asseri, Huetar, 
l Brusela (?). 

Northern Costa 

rVoto Barba. 

Suerre T Chiuppa, Camachire, 

\ Cocori. 

Corobici J Guatuso, Los Tices ( ? ) . 

Rama Melchora. 

1 Some authors classify the Dorasque with the Guaymi on the basis of scanty linguistic evidence. 
Equally acceptable data indicate that this tribe originally had political if not closer relationships 
with their other neighbors. The arrangement here does not deny the validity of classifications based 
on other types of data. 

• These terms are also used as synonyms for the Sigua, a colony speaking Nahuatlan. 



[B.A.E. Bull. 143 




Subtribes and Synonyms 

Caribbean Low- 
land : East. 



r Meskito, Missko, Moscos, 
Mosquito (early name I Miskito, Moustiques, 

for tribe) 1 Moustiquais, Muskitoe, 

I- Mustic, Sambo. 

Mam Cueta. 


Baldam Baymuna. 


Sumu, Smu, Simu, Zumu, 
Soomoo, Soumou, 
Soomu, Smoo, Smou, 
L Simou. 




' Taga, Tagua, Taguaca, 
Tahua, Teguaca, 
Teuko, Tao, Touco, 
Thuaco, Tuaco, Toca, 
Towka, Toaka, 
Tauzzka, Tauachka, 
Tukaca, Towcka, 
Tauca, Towa, Tuaca, 
Twaxka, Twa'ka, 
Tocka, Tawasca, 
Tuaca, Tucoa, Laku, 
Coco, Wasabane, Pispi. 

{Panamaga, Ponamaka, 


Kukra (extinct) 

"Ulwa, Ulua, Culoua, 
Ulawa, Ulba, Uluwa, 
Vulva, Vulwa, Vulua, 
Wulua, Woolwa, 

f Kukara, Kokora, Cookra, 
J Cukra, Kokra, Cucura, 
■ 1 Cookera, Cockerack, 
I Cackera. 

Yosko (extinct) Yusku, Yusko. 

Prmsu (extmct) j p 

rinzu, Prinzo, Prinzoo, 

{Tungla, Tungola, Ton- 
gula, Toongla, Tonga, 
Tumbla, Tumba. 

. Boa (extinct) Poa, Pua. 

• It is possible that the Ulva should be classified as a group as well as a tribe. 

Vol. 4] 






Subtribes and Synonyms 

Caribbean Low- 
land North coast . 

Pay a 

. Jicaque . . 

f Matagalpa Cacaopera 

Northern High- 4 

lands. l^Lenca * 

' Chorotega Choluteca 

Meso- American. 


Poya, Foyer, Poyai, 
Popya, Pawyer, 
Pahaya, Seco. 

Xicague, Cicaque, Hica- 
que, Ikake, Taguaca, 
Taupane (?), Torru- 

Nagrandan, Dirian. 
Nicoya, Orosi. 



r Nicarao 
Ts.T-,!,..^»u^ J Nahuatlato 

LNahuatlan ....j Deg^g^adero 

L Bagace 

Cigua, Segua, Qiichagua, 


* The organization of the Lenca is not understood. Peoples inhabiting different towns could be 
classified as tribes and named after the towns. However, until the relationship of these towns is 
known it seems better not to list them here. 


Alba, €., 1928; Andagoya, 1865; Anderson, 1914; Andrade, 1709; Angulo, 1862; 
Avila, [1524] ; Bancroft, 1874-76, 1883-90; Bard, 1885; Berckenhagen, 1894; Berendt, 
1876 ; Blessing, 1899 ; Bonilla, J., 1702 ; Brinton, 1895 ; Captain General of Guatemala, 
1742; Cardenas Palomino, 1684; Carrion, 1648; Ceballos, 1610; Col. Doc. Ined. Amer., 
1864-84; Col. Doc. Ined. de Colombia, 1891-94; Conzemius, 1921, 1927-28, 1928, 1929, 
1930, 1932; Coronado, 1564; Costa Rica-Panama Arbitration Documents, 1913; 
Criado de Castilla, 1575; Dampier, 1699; Davidson, 1935; Diego y Gutierrez [1534] ; 
Edwards, 1823; Espinosa, 1514, 1516, 1519; Exquemelin, 1678 (1893); Fernandez, 
1881-1907, 1889 ; Fernandez Ferraz, 1892 ; Fernandez Guardia and Fernandez Ferraz, 
1892; Flores, 1611 ; Gabb, 1874, 1875; Gagini, 1917; Garret y Arlovi, 1711; Gonzalez 
y Gutierrez, [1540]; Habel, 1878; Hackett, 1916; Harrower, 1925; Haya Fernandez. 
1719; Heath, 1913, 1927; Irias, 1853; James, 1942; Johnson, 1940; Juan and Ulloa, 
1748; Kirchhoff, 1943; Lade, 1744; de Laet, 1640; Landecho and San Millan, 1559; 
Lara, 1912; Lehmann, 1915, 1920; Lines, 1938 a; Lothrop, 1926 b, 1937, 1942; Lutz, 
1922 ; MacNiel, 1886; Maldonado, 1662; Margil, 1703; Mason, J. A., 1940; Matamoros, 
1675; "M. W.," 1752; Oviedo y Valdes, 1851-55; Pavon, 1578; Pector, 1888-89; 
Peralta, 1883, 1890, 1892, 1901; Pirn and Seeman, 1869; Pinart, 1885, 1887 a, 1887 b, 
1900; Pinedo, 1709; Pittier de Fabrega, 1895, 1898, 1903, 1938 a, 1938 b, 1941 ; Ponce, 
1873; Prince, 1913 a, 1913 b; Quiroga, 1535; Raveneau de Lussan, 1689; Rebullida, 
1698; Requejo Salcedo, 1908 (1842) ; Ribera, 1571; Ricketson, 1940; de Rivera, 1569; 


Rivet, 1911, 1924; Royal Cedula, 1521, 1740; Ruiz de Campos, 1631; Saenz, 1675, 
1676; Salinas y de la Cerda, 1651; Sandoval, 1638, San Francisco y Rios, 1703; San 
Jose, 1697; San Jose and Rebullida, 1699; Sapper, 1899; Schuchert, 1935; Seeman, 
1853; Semano, 1536; Skinner, 1920; Sojo, 1605; Squier, 1852, 1853 a, 1856, 1858, 1859, 
1860 a, 1860 b, 1908; Stewart, 1942; Stone, 1940 a, 1940 b, 1941, 1942, 1943; Strong, 
1935; Strong, Kidder and Paul, 1938; Termer, 1914; Thomas and Swanton, 1911; 
Urcullu, 1763; Vazquez, 1714-16; Villacorta Calderon, 1942; Von Hagen, 1943; 
Wassen, 1935 ; Young, 1842. 

The Archeology of Central America 


By Wm, Duncan Strong 

The geographic position of Central America, Hnking as it does the two 
great western continents (map 1), gives the area a great importance 
to the student of native peoples and cultural movements in pre-Columbian 
America. History and ethnology furnish much data on these later 
processes, but only archeology can reveal the earlier population and cul- 
tural interchanges that occurred during the as yet uncounted millennia 
from the first human occupation until the time of the Conquest. It is 
unfortunate, therefore, for present purposes that scientific archeology in 
the area has until now merely scratched the surface of what is obviously 
a rich and promising field. 

Archeological materials from the various countries in Central America 
are abundant, but unfortunately the bulk of these are the result of treasure- 
hunting or chance discovery and lack scientific documentation. Nowhere 
in the isthmian region has archeological research uncovered cultural 
materials of demonstrable antiquity. When we consider the very limited 
amount of truly scientific exploration and stratigraphic excavation yet 
accomplished in the region this is hardly surprising. The occurrence of 
associated human and bison tracks in consolidated lava deposits in Nica- 
ragua, however, strongly suggests that early cultural materials will be 
found here when more work is accomplished. At the other end of the 
time scale too little is yet known regarding the actual association of 
aboriginal cultural materials and documented historic or protohistoric 
sites. Lothrop has presented some evidence of this sort linking the 
historic and prehistoric in Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua, and sim- 
ilar beginnings have been made in Honduras. However, the historic 
approach must be emphasized far more than it has before the findings of 
archeology can assume their full significance in association with the rel- 
atively rich record of history and ethnology. 

There follow brief articles on the present status of archeology in the 
various provinces of Panama by Lothrop, who has been closely associated 



With recent work in this area. In regard to Costa Rica and Nicaragua 
very little has been published since the monumental summary, "Pottery 
of Costa Rica and Nicaragua," by Lothrop (1926 b), which appeared two 
decades ago. As a result, these two countries are here treated together 
by Strong in what is little more than a digest of Lothrop's two volumes 
with certain new findings added. Honduras has been the scene of certain 
stratigraphic excavations in recent years and is, therefore, summarized 
by Strong in a separate article. Finally, a general article on Central 
American archeology by Stone presents materials and an individual in- 
terpretation resulting from recent surveys in most of these countries. 

It would be of great value to include a section concerning the archeology 
of the northern border of Central America as viewed from South Amer- 
ica, notably including EI Salvador and Guatemala, but this has not proved 
possible. There has been a great deal of recent exploration and excava- 
tion in these countries, particularly by the Carnegie Institution, but little 
of this material has yet appeared in print. The interpenetration of north- 
ern and southern cultural influences in Central America during the 
millennia of native occupation prior to the Conquest was naturally com- 
plex and variable in direction. From an archeological standpoint the 
territory included in the present Republic of Honduras seems today as 
logical a northern .boundary for direct South American culture thrusts as 
any that might be chosen. However, the scientific findings and publica- 
tions of tomorrow may well revise this judgment on numerous time levels. 


By Wm. Duncan Strong 


The archeology of Honduras (see map 3) is perhaps even less generally 
known than that of Costa Rica and Nicaragua, since it has never been 
made the subject of a general monograph such as that of Lothrop (1926 b, 
vols. 1, 2). On the other hand, northwestern Honduras has in recent 
years been the scene of several careful stratigraphic excavations. Hence, 
the all-important factor of relative time and cultural succession is not 
quite so obscure here as it is in southern Central America. This factor, 
coupled with the extremely spotty nature of present archeological knowl- 
edge concerning Honduras, necessitates a less generalized treatment than 
was possible in Costa Rica and Nicaragua and permits a somewhat more 
careful analysis of the nature of certain northern and southern pre- 
historic cultural thrusts as they intermingled along this very important 
borderland between predominantly South American and northern cultures 
and peoples. 

For purposes of convenience we shall consider three rather arbitrary 
regions in Honduras. These are partially geographic and partially cul- 
tural in nature, their choice being determined quite as much by the hap- 
hazard distribution of available archeological data as by ecological factors. 
These tentative regions are (1) the northeast coast including the Bay 
Islands, (2) the Ulua-Yojoa region, and (3) central and southwestern 
Honduras. Of these, the northeast coast is geographically an extension 
of the Eastern Coastal Plain in Nicaragua (map 3), and the second 
region, centering around the Ulua River and Lake Yojoa, comprises most 
of northwestern Honduras. The third "region," central and southwestern 
Honduras, while geographically self-explanatory, is obviously neither a 
natural nor a cultural unit. From present inadequate surveys its south- 
western portion would seem to have been predominantly Maya and Pipil, 
whereas central Honduras, on the basis of even less satisfactory surveys, 
seems to have been dominated by the Lenca. Of the earlier cultures in 
central and southwestern Honduras we as yet know nothing. The only 
detailed archeological reports on this region concern the famous Maya 
city of Copan. Since Maya civiHzation is so obviously of more northerly 
provenience it is discussed here primarily in regard to the manner in 



which it impinges on the other Honduran cultures, historic and prehistoric. 
In the Ulua-Yojoa region we have considerable and significant evidence 
in this regard, but so far, little such evidence is available for southwestern 
or central Honduras. Since treatment of such major manifestations of 
Maya culture, as are represented at Copan and adjacent Maya sites, 
logically do not fall within the scope of a South American handbook, the 
reader will be referred to other sources in this regard. 

Each of the three "regions" of Honduras will first be considered sepa- 
rately in the following discussion and the major sources will be indicated. 
Then such ethnic correlations as seem justified will be mentioned. Sub- 
sequently, the close relationships that exist between all three regions will 
be outlined and wider comparisons made. Owing to the fact that ceramic 
styles are better known than other cultural materials and therefore seem 
historically more significant, they may seem to be unduly stressed. This 
state of affairs, however, merely indicates the early pioneer stage so far 
attained concerning the archeology of Honduras. 



The northeast coast of Honduras is a swamp, savanna, and mountain 
area drained by the Aguan, Sico, and Paulaya (which unite to form the 
Black) and Patuca Rivers. (See map 3.) To assign southern limits 
to this area on archeological grounds is as yet impossible. For present 
purposes, however, we shall arbitrarily consider these as being formed 
by the Cordillera de Pijol in the west, and the northern rim of the valleys 
of the Guayape and Guampu Rivers (which together form the Patuca) in 
the east. On the Caribbean this northeast coast region in the same arbi- 
trary manner can be considered as terminating on the west near the mouth 
of the Ulua River, and to the east at Cape Gracias a Dios on the modem 
Nicaraguan border. Present archeological knowledge of all this area is 
largely based upon reports resulting from hurried survey trips rather than 
on extensive excavations. The major sources on the northeast coast are 
Spinden (1925), Strong (1935), and Stone (1941). 


Mound groups. — The larger sites on the northeast coast of Honduras 
are marked by notable mound assemblages. These may be either irregular 
or formally laid out around rectangular courts. They consist of earth, 
rough stone, or both. In some cases earth mounds have outer walls com- 
posed of boulders or stone rubble. One large habitation area in the Bay 
Islands, the "Eighty Acre" site, consists of a large number of low refuse 
or house mounds, whereas the Plan Grande site on the island of Bonacca 

(Face p. 72) 

Map 3. — The archeology of Central America, (Prepared with data furnished by W. D. Strong and Doris Stone.) 
(For Playa de los Muertos, read Las Flores; for Las Flores, read Playa de las Muertos.) 

(Face p. 72) 

Vol. 4] 







MOUND 5 ^ip,^^ 


^>, 80UL0e» 

■\ WAIL 





'.'.■ 8 

tMCT kHO rmun 

MOI•OtlTM^^^,^- ■M^'"''"'?, 

|MOUH0 2 rX^Nw^H •■ 


^ * 5 MOUND 3 </„ ,;>!> .•" 


j.0'SMAll HOUMO 



" ■ ■ .T 


Figure 1.— Sketch map of the Plan Grande site, Bonacca, Bay Islands, Honduras, 
(After Strong, 1935, fig. 35.) 


is a vast enclosure bounded by a boulder wall around irregular earth 
mounds (fig. 1). Inside the wall at Plan Grande are also large rectangu- 
lar foundations made of low erect stone slabs, and there is also a large 
irregular alignment of erect and fallen monolithic slabs of great size 
(Strong, 1935, p. 131). The "Eighty Acre" site was apparently a town, 
whereas Plan Grande suggests a ceremonial center. 

On the adjacent mainland, in the vicinity of Trujillo, Stone (1941, p. 
47) mentions an interesting mound complex apparently closely related to 
certain Bay Island cultural manifestations. These sites are marked by 
shell heaps, long, flat, habitation mounds, and circular ceremonial mounds. 
Unfortunately, data on the careful excavations of Junius Bird at one of 
these sites have not yet been published. To the north, in the Aguan 
Valley, Stone (1942, p. 380) describes two types of mounds, one of un- 
worked stone, the other of earth with stone facings. Both types occur 
in irregular groupings and the earth mounds are the larger. This last 
mound type Stone assigns to the historic Su\a.- Jicaque. To the south, on 
the Tonjagua River near San Esteban, she describes a large, stone temple- 
mound ascended by a 7-foot stairway of large stones, surrounded by 
smaller mounds. This site she assigns to the historic Paya. Spinden 
(1925) reports numerous circular or oval village sites with moats and, 
at Bonito farm, mentions an oval, boulder enclosure containing a large 
temple-mound ascended by rough, stone-slab steps. Strong (1935, p. 
160) has described a number of similar sites from the pine-forest area 
between the Olancho Valley and the north coast. These sites are marked 
by large earth mounds arranged to form rectangular enclosures. Long 
stone causeways or paved roads often lead from such sites to the nearest 
stream, and impressive but uncarved monoliths occur at several of them. 
On the headwaters of the Bonito River is a rather unique ruin with 
well-made stone walls consisting of three large rooms. The center room 
contains five large stone altars (Strong, 1935, p. 161; cf. Stone, 1941, 
p. 52). There are many earth and boulder mounds in the vicinity. The 
most easterly site so far described from the northeast coast region is at 
the junction of the Guampu and the Patuca Rivers (Strong, 1934 a; 
1935, p. 161). This ruin, at Wanquibila, consists of a complex arrange- 
ment of great earth mounds, some 100 yards (100 m.) long and 30 feet 
(about 10 m.) high, around a series of plazas. The earth mounds have 
burned-clay cores. The easterly occurrence of such great earth mounds 
arranged around plazas is important since similar sites occur in eastern 
Costa Rica (Costa Rica and Nicaragua, p. 131). The great intervening 
area between northeastern Honduras and Costa Rica is too little known 
to tell whether this distribution is continuous. 

Canals. — ^The reported occurrence of artificial canals around Guay- 
moreto Lagoon has been mentioned. A similar canal is reported as 
separating Helena Island from Roatan in the Bay Islands (Strong, 1935. 

Vol. 4] 



Figure 2. — Incised design on erect stone at ceremonial site on Claura River 
northeastern Honduras. (After Spinden, 1925, fig. 4.) 


p. 74). In neither case are present data adequate to determine the exact 
nature or function of such presumably artificial waterways. 

Roads. — Stone-paved roads on the Bay Islands (Strong, 1935, p. 140) 
and similar roads connecting mounds and streams at northern mainland 
sites have also been mentioned. 

Stone monuments. — Stone monuments are scarce on the northeast 
coast with the exception of clusters of large, erect monolithic slabs such 
as those which occur at Plan Grande (fig. 1). These menhir-like monu- 
ments (occasionally phallic) seem most characteristic of the area as a 
whole, although at times attempts at decoration occur. Spinden (1925, 
p. 539) discovered a plinth of this type on the northern mainland decorated 
with an elaborate incised design (fig. 2). The design is of particular 
interest since it depicts the widely distributed, overlapping-fanged monster, 
the head of which is surmounted by another creature (or headdress) sug- 
gesting the "alter ego" motif. A small steatite figure from an oflfertory 
spring on Bonacca Island is likewise surmounted by the figure of an 
animal (fig. 5, right). This use of the "alter ego" motif is similar to 
that employed in Nicaragua. 

Petroglyphs. — Petroglyphs similar to those in eastern Nicaragua occur 
at several sites on the northeast coast of Honduras. 

Offertories and burials. — Hilltop offertories on the Bay Islands con- 
sist of masses of broken pottery and contain numerous other specimens 
(Strong, 1935, pp. 142-143). Probably .burials also occur in such sites, 
but the evidence in this regard is not clear. A Bay Island Polychrome 
pot (pi. 5, c) containing what appears to be a priest's outfit of some 
487 carved green stone, shell, and copper ornaments (Strong, 1935, 
p. 53) occurred in one such site on Roatan Island. On offertory in a 
mineral spring on Bonacca Island (Strong, 1935, p. 123) and another 
in a hot spring in the Black River Valley (Stone, 1941, p. 28) seem 
quite similar. Spinden (1925) has described offertories on the north- 
east mainland where great stone tables, carved stone bowls, and metates 
occur (pi. 1, top). 

On the northeast coast both flexed and extended burials have been 
reported in shell heaps. Urn and skull burials with some traces of 
cremation occur in the Bay Islands (pi. 1, bottom) and probably on the 
mainland as well. Burials likewise occur in caves, house mounds, and 
probably in connection with hilltop and other offertories. Further ex- 
ploration and careful excavation are needed to define clearly the relative 
importance and exact nature of all these aboriginal manifestations. 


Introductory note. — In regard to ceramic styles on the northeast 
coast, certain of those on the Bay Islands have been described by Strong 
(1935) and on the mainland by Stone (1941). Monochrome pottery 

Vol. 4] 



seems to be the most abundant ware in the region, and the majority of 
these ceramics can be considered as belonging to what is here designated 
as the North Coast AppUque style. Recent comparison of the ceramic 
groups that I formerly designated as Bay Island Plain and Elaborate 
Monochrome (Strong, 1935), and Stone (1941) as Bay Island ware or 
"Paya" pottery, with those Highland Costa Rican types included by 
Lothrop (1926 b, vol. 2) within his Highland Applique Wares (p. 135) 
convinces me that these are all basically the same. For this reason the 
term North Coast Applique style for the Honduras variant seems fitting, 
since it points out the basic similarity to Highland Applique but allows for 
slight local differentiations. The designations "style" and "type" are em- 
ployed in the present section, since this permits the use of the term "ware" 
for wider categories, such as monochrome versus bichrome, etc., which is 
not the case in discussing Costa Rica and Nicaragua (p. 126), where 
Lothrop's terminology is followed. 

North Coast Applique style. — North Coast Applique style ceramics 
can, at present, be divided into three types : (a) Bay Island Monochrome 
type, so designated since the type was first defined here (Strong, 1935) ; 

(b) Ulua Marble Vaselike type (an awkward term but descriptive) ; and 

(c) Simple Painted type. Other types will doubtless be distinguished, but 
for the present these will suffice. North Coast Applique style ceramics, 
as a group, are predominantly monochrome, the surface ranging from 
rough unslipped to slipped and polished, the color from brown to red, and 
decoration being achieved by means of both applique and incision. 

Bay Island Monochrome type. — The Bay Island Monochrome type 
(pis. 2, 3, o-c/, and fig. 3) contains numerous forms, including rounded 


Figure 3. — North 


Coast Applique style vessel forms, 
(After Strong, 1935, fig. 38.) 

9 f> 

Bay Islands, Honduras. 



[B.A.E. Bull. 143 

vessels with necks of varying height, cyUndrical vessels with annular and 
tripod bases, and shoe-shaped, boat-shaped, and effigy vessels. Some ves- 
sels lack handles, but a wide variety of handles and modeled lugs occurs. 
Tripod legs are common, often elaborated in the form of human or animal 
heads, but legs seem generally shorter than is the case with Costa Rican 
Tripod Ware. Many small, ornate but crudely made vessels were ap- 
parently constructed primarily for ceremonial deposition (Strong, 1935, 
pis. 7, 8). 

Ulua Marble Vaselike type. — The second type of vessel (pi. 5, d, e), 
is generally cylindrical, with an annular or flat base. The pots are deco- 
rated by incision and some applique, including ornate animalistic lugs. 
Rim and base are often decorated with incised step or scroll designs, and 

Figure 4.— Bold Geometric style, San Marcos type pottery, Bay Islands, Honduras. 
(White: red, brown, or orange; hatching: dark brown or dull black). (After 
Strong, 1935, fig. 11.) 


the complex central design centers around a grotesquely conventionalized 
face surrounded by interlocking scrolls. The resemblance between these 
pottery vessels and the well-known, and exquisite, marble vases of the 
Ulua Valley is very striking (pi. 5, compare d, e, f). It is generally be- 
lieved that pottery vessels of this type were made in imitation of the mar- 
ble vases, but recently Stone (1941, p. 29) has suggested that the pottery 
vessels are the original prototype. Since this type of North Coast Ap- 
plique style ceramics occurs in other associations in the Ulua-Yojoa region 
the problem will be discussed later. 

Simple Painted type. — While the bulk of North Coast Applique pottery 
is monochrome, at least one limited type has simple painting in addition 
to basic decoration by applique and incision (pi. 3, e, j). This type seems 
so close to the Simple Painted Wares of Highland Costa Rica that it has 
here been similarly designated, the Simple Painted type. The type is less 
adequately defined even than the above. In all probability it contains 
pieces that blend with certain polychrome styles. Form, texture, and 
basic decoration, however, all indicate that the Simple Painted type or 
types pertain to the larger. North Coast Applique style rather than to any 
of the polychrome styles. In general. North Coast Applique style pottery 
seems to occur in somewhat variant forms throughout the entire northeast 
coast region as here defined. The exact boundaries of this distribution, 
and the finer type distinctions, remain to be determined. 

Bay Island Polychrome style. — The most distinctive northeast coast 
polychrome style is that here designated as Bay Island Polychrome (for- 
merly called Bay Island Polychrome I by Strong, 1935). The type is as 
yet poorly defined but appears to center on the Bay Islands and on the 
adjacent mainland, around and back from Guaymoreto Lagoon. (See 
map 3, p. 72). It is a thin polychrome ware characterized by an orange 
slip with complex designs in red and black (for color, see Strong, 1935, 
pi. 1). A cream-white slip is sometimes employed with black and red 
designs. The slip and paint appear to be rather easily eroded. Forms 
(fig. 5) are much the same as in North Coast Applique, but a pear-shaped 
vessel with fiat, annular, or tripod base seems to predominate (pi. 5, c). 
Adequate examples are not available for complete design analysis, but 
these appear to be complex and florid. The main distinguishable design 
is a plumed deity or monster, perhaps the plumed serpent, with a fore- 
shortened body (pi. 5, c). The main body design seems to be repeated 
in even more conventionalized form on the rim band and, probably, by the 
modeled lugs. It is a highly conventionalized art and suggests indirect 
Mexican or Chorotegan influence. Not only vessel forms but also mod- 
eled lugs are often identical with examples in the North Coast Applique 
style. For this reason, and also because no utilitarian vessels in Bay 
Island Polychrome style have been noted; it seems probable that the 
style represents a ceremonial aspect added to the more widespread mono- 



[B.A.E. BuU. 143 

chrome Applique ceramic tradition. We shall discuss the probable sig- 
nificance of this in a later section. 

Other styles and types. — The other polychrome styles so far distin- 
guished on the northeast coast seem more representative of the Ulua- 
Yojoa region. One of these is the Ulua Bold Geometric style (formerly 
called Bay Island Polychrome II, Strong, 1935), which occurs on the 
Bay Islands and on the mainland. The examples of Bold Geometric 
style so far noted in the Bay Islands and on the adjacent mainland (fig. 4 
and pi. 3, g, h,) seem to be of the later or San Marcos type on the Ulua 
River, which is characterized by the predominance of textile and geo- 
metric designs. Another polychrome style represented in casual finds 
from the Bay Islands (Strong, 1935, pi. 18, a, c, e) and the north coast 
suggests the Ulua-Mayoid style, and most of these seem to belong to the 
later or Las Flores type (pi. 6, j~n). Finally, a few sherds of Plumbate 



Figure 5. — Bay Island Polychrome vessel forms and carved steatite image, Bay 
Islands, Honduras. (After Strong, 1935, fig. 37.) 

ware, in association with Bay Island Polychrome and Applique, were 
found on Barburata Island (Strong, 1935, p. 117). These ceramic styles 
and types will be discussed in connection with the Ulua-Yojoa region. 
A considerable variety of other pottery objects occur on the northeast 
coast ; these include grotesque applique figurines, figurines on stools, 
crude realistic human faces, modeled whistles, and cylindrical and flat 
pottery stamps. The majority of these are figured by Strong (1935). 


Ceramic stratigraphy. — So far no clear stratification of ceramic types 
has been reported from the northeast coast. Strong (1935, p. 145) pointed 
out that Bay Island Polychrome I and the more elaborate North Coast 
Applique were related and believed that both overlay the plainer mono- 
chrome pottery deposits in at least one Bay Island offertory site. This 
evidence is entirely observational and is not closely enough controlled to 
accept without further verification. His incorrect assumption that, 
stylistically, the Bold Geometric (Bay Island Polychrome II) style repre- 
sented a degeneration from Bay Island Polychrome I and is therefore 
presumably later has already been corrected (Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 
1938, pp. 119-120). We turn now to a brief consideration of other 
classes of artifacts in the northeast coast region. 


The nonceramic culture of the Bay Islands, so far as known, has been 
described in some detail elsewhere (Strong, 1935). For the remainder 
of the northeast coast region such data are scattered but, in general, indi- 
cate a rather close relationship to the Bay Islands. 

Metals. — Metalwork seems to be rare in this region but does occur. 
Copper bells, including some cast to represent a feline face (pi. 4, bottom), 
were included in a votive cache within a Bay Island Polychrome vase 
(pi. 5, c) on Roatan Island, and a few other objects of copper including 
copper celts have been found (Strong, 1935). Gold or other metal 
objects have not been reported. 

Ground stone. — Ground-stone objects, so far reported, include many 
carvings of a green stone (Strong, 1935; Stone, 1941). Though a few 
of these are of true jadeite the majority are of softer materials such as 
talc. These include a variety of human heads often elaborately plumed 
and feUne faces (pi. 4, fop). A large number of these, in association 
with a votive celt (Strong, 1935, pi. 12), were found in the previously 
mentioned hilltop offertory on Roatan Island. According to Stone 
(1941, p. 47, fig. 39), such carvings, including ax-gods (or votive celts) 
and very large cylindrical beads, are particularly common in sites around 
Guaymoreto Lagoon on the mainland adjacent to the Bay Islands. As 
previously noted, both Bay Island Polychrome and Bold Geometric style 
ceramics occur in this area. Stone (1941, p. 52) points out various re- 
semblances such as the common occurrence of votive celts of greenstone 
in this small section of Honduras and in the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa 
Rica. Bay Island Polychrome ceramics are also somewhat reminiscent 
of the Nicoya Polychrome Ware, and the possibility that the Bay Islands 
and the adjacent Honduras mainland were, in some manner, more or 
less directly influenced by the Mexicanized or Chorotegan cultures of 
western Nicaragua and Costa Rica should be carefully considered in 
future studies. This is of particular interest since, generally, the pre- 



Figure 6. — Bay Island Polychrome pottery, Bay Islands, Honduras. (White: 
orange-red; black: black; hatching: purplish red; cross-hatching: darker red.) 
(After Strong, 1935, fig. 21.) 


historic cultures of the northeast coast of Honduras seem more closely 
related to the Highland than to the Pacific regions to the south. 

To return to a consideration of ground-stone work on the northeast 
coast, simple marble bowls occur (Strong, 1935, p. 127), but the more 
elaborate type of Ulua marble vase has not been reported despite the 
fact that a very similar ceramic type occurs (p. 78 and pi. 5, d, e). The 
most characteristic stone bowl in this region is cylindrical, with or without 
legs, and with sculptured lugs and decorative bands in relief. These 
vessels often occur in votive caches (pi. 1, top). Such bowls are beauti- 
fully made and are often decorated with textile motifs. There is doubtless 
some cultural connection between this type and the Ulua Marble vases 
of similar form, as well as with similar stone vase types in Costa Rica. 
As in Highland Costa Rica, large stone tables occur (pi. 1, top), as do 
three-legged forms suggesting giant metates. A characteristic metate 
form on the northeast coast has three squared legs and a flat, ungrooved 
working surface surmounted by a bird, mammal, or conventionalized rep- 
tilian head. Legless mealing stones are common. MuUers are usually 
cylindrical, and a few giant specimens with anthropomorphic carving in 
relief have been found. As in Highland Costa Rica, stone pot-rests with 
legs and incised decoration have been reported from the Bay Islands 
(Strong, 1935, p. 108). Other polished stone artifacts include celts 
ranging from large to small size (the latter often of greenstone), 
T-shaped axes (which are sometimes perforated), a variety of mace heads 
(including star and mammiform types from the Bay Islands which are 
identical with specimens from Nicoya), grooved bark-beaters of both 
the cylindrical-handled and ovoid types, and a wide variety of carved 
and plain pendants and beads (all types illustrated. Strong, 1935). 

Chipped stone. — Chipped-stone artifacts are not so common or striking 
as the above but do occur. (See W. and D. Popenoe, 1931, fig. 1.) 
They have been reported so far mainly from the Bay Islands. The finest 
specimens are beautifully chipped knives, of honey-colored stone, from 
the Bay Islands (Strong, 1935, pi. 16). They suggest sacrificial use. 
Ovoid obsidian points from the same islands may have been used either 
as knives or for projectile points (Strong, 1935, fig. 15). Small notched 
arrow points occur at Lancetilla on the mainland (W. and D. Popenoe, 
1931, fig. 1 ). Prismatic flakes of obsidian seem to be a widely distributed 
and ancient type of knife in prehistoric Honduras. Crudely chipped 
T-shaped axes are rather abundant also. 

Miscellaneous. — Other classes of artifacts known from the northeast 
coast include both shell- and bonework. Perforated conch shells, pre- 
sumably used as trumpets, occur commonly at coastal sites. In association 
with the votive cache on Roatan Island, a six-pointed star and other 
pendants, labrets, danglers (of Oliva porphyria) and beads of shell were 
found (Strong, 1935, pi. 15). Perforated animal teeth, some with decora- 



[B.A.E. BuU. 143 

tive carving, and various fragmentary bone implements constitute the 
only known artifacts of this material. From the above list it is obvious 
that, while perishable materials are rare in northeast coast sites, the list 
of nonceramic artifacts is still considerable. As indicated in the next 
section, this does not seem to be true of most sites in Ulua-Yojoa region. 

Figure 7.— Sketch map of the lower Ulua and Chamelecon Rivers, Honduras. 
(After Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938, fig. 5.) 




As discussed here this region can be regarded as representing a sampling 
of northwestern Honduras. Intensive archeological work, however, has 
so far been accompUshed at only a few sites on the lower Ulna, Chamele- 
con, and Comayagua Rivers and around the northern end of Lake Yojoa. 
Surveys around the southern and western borders of this northwestern 
district (Yde, 1938) indicate that the majority of larger sites there are 
predominantly Mayoid. Such sites are not considered here. However, 
it must be remembered that, to date, the northwestern region of Honduras 
as a whole has been barely sampled by scientific archeologists, although 
it has long been and continues to be a collector's paradise. For this 
reason the following outline must be regarded as exploratory rather than 
definitive in outlining apparent culture sequences in an obviously rich 
and complex area. The region was first called to scientific attention by 
the work of Gordon (1898). The early Playa de los Muertos culture was 
isolated and defined by Popenoe (1934), and her work was followed up 
by the stratigraphic excavations of the Smithsonian Institution-Harvard 
University Expedition of 1936. (See Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938.) 
Stone (1941) has excavated at Travesia and has surveyed much of the 
area. Yde (1938) has also surveyed the region, and his report includes 
a good bibliographic and site index up to 1937. Culture-sequence data 
are to be derived primarily from Popenoe (1934) and Strong, Kidder, 
and Paul (1938). 


Mound groups and associated features. — The prehistoric structures 
of the Ulua- Yojoa area are similar to those of the northeast coast but 
in many cases are larger and more elaborate. In the Ulua Valley are a 
number of mound sites most of which are more or less formally arranged 
around plazas (Gordon, 1898, fig. 3). The mounds are usually of earth, 
often with burned-clay cores and sometimes capped or surrounded by 
rough stones. Some stone stairs, causeways, and encircling walls occur. 
Cut stonework and carving seems to be rather rare except at sites of 
probably Mayoid affiliations (Yde, 1938). No definitive work in mound 
sites has been accomplished except at Travesia (Stone, 1941), where 
stuccoed terraces, steps, altars, and courts have been uncovered. One of 
these terraces, believed to be a temple, was marked by the occurrence 
of crudely carved anthropomorphic designs on rock slabs (Stone, 1941, 
p. 61). Outlying "cache" mounds near the site contained masses of 
pottery of mixed styles and types. A somewhat similar site on the 
Chamelecon at Naco also has stucco-covered small pyramids and long 
earth mounds arranged around courts (Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938). 



[B.A.E. Bull. 143 

A ball court and stuccoed-house floors of various colors are also of interest 
at Naco, which is an historic Nahuatl site. Earlier sites on the Ulua and 
its immediate tributaries are refuse heaps, or burial grounds exposed 
by the cutting of the river and locally called Playas de los Muertos, 

"Beaches of the Dead." Gordon (1898), Popenoe (1934), and Strong, 
Kidder, and Paul (1938) all worked in these deeply sedimented sites. 
Adjacent to Lake Yojoa one large, formally arranged mound group is 
located at Los Naranjos (Yde, 1938; Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938), 
and many groups of low burial and habitation mounds occur in groups 


around the lake. The burial mounds, prior to the extensive looting of 
recent years, were rich in beautiful polychrome pottery. A canal, or 
earth causeway, 5 kilometers long, leading from the Rio Blanco to the 
Lake, is an unusual and interesting feature here (fig. 8, and Strong, 
Kidder, and Paul, 1938). 

Stone monuments. — Large stone sculpture is not abundant in the 
Ulua-Yojoa region. Gordon figures a crude anthropomorphic statue 
from near the Ulua (fig. 12, c), and several sculptures have been de- 
scribed from near Los Naranjos on Lake Yojoa (Yde, 1938; Strong, 
Kidder, and Paul, 1938, pi. 16). The most striking of these include 
a conventionalized serpent head of Mayoid type, a crudely realistic human 
torso with folded arms, a large apelike head which may belong to the 
body, and a cylindrical statue suggesting a giant roller pestle with a 
crude human figure in low relief and a columnar base. The last three 
statues are not Mayoid in style and suggest Nicaraguan or Costa Rican 

Burial places. — Along the Ulua, Chamelicon, and Comayagua Rivers 
the occurrence of both ancient and more recent prehistoric burial grounds, 
originally covered by sedimentation and later exposed by river erosion, 
has been mentioned. The earliest of these cemeteries so far excavated 
(Popenoe, 1934) pertains to the Playa de los Muertos culture and con- 
tained both flexed and unflexed burials. Later burial grounds of the 
polychrome pottery period excavated at Las Flores, the upper stratum 
at the Playa de los Muertos site, and Santa Rita, on the Ulua and lower 
Comayagua Rivers, contained badly preserved extended and some bundle 
burials. The burial mounds of the polychrome pottery period at Lake 
Yojoa are composed of black humous soil, and no skeletal parts were re- 
covered except a few fragments of dental enamel. Earlier records of 
burials uncovered in this general region (Strong, 1935, p. 151) are inter- 
esting but lack scientific detail or later confirmation. Much more specific 
information on ancient methods of disposing of the dead, as well as 
concerning the physical types represented at various periods, can be 
obtained in the Ulua-Yojoa area, but the present published record is 
too inadequate for any generalizations to be drawn. 


Introductory note. — In regard to the complex ceramics of the Ulua- 
Yojoa region, the present discussion will be largely limited to those pottery 
styles and types which have been more or less stratigraphically placed. 
It is unfortunate that the final report on the 1936 Smithsonian Institution- 
Harvard University expedition incorporating the materials secured by 
Gordon (1898), Popenoe, et al., is not available. However, the major 
stratigraphic groupings have been outlined in a preliminary report 
(Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938), and an attempt will here be made 


to define and illustrate, briefly, but perhaps more specifically, the ceramic 
styles and types so far defined in the region under discussion, 

Naco style. — On the Contact, or early historic, level the ceramic com- 
plex revealed at Naco is very distinctive. Both historic documentation 
and direct association with European materials indicate that aboriginal 
material from this site pertains to a late Nahuatl occupation. For present 
purposes we can designate this entire ceramic complex as the Naco style, 
since the present sample is inadequate for final subdivision into types. 
The most striking Naco ware has a white slip with painted geometric 
and curvilinear decorations on both surfaces in black and red (pi. 6, cD-g). 
Plumed figures are apparently represented in some cases. Tripod bowls 
with a unique, four-pointed foot are characteristic. A small proportion 
of unpainted and a few painted sherds have either heavily incised or 
raised geometric designs on the inner surface (Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 
1938, pi. 4). Textile-marked sherds also occur. These will probably 
form the basis for quite distinctive types. As is true at all other sites 
in Honduras, plain, utilitarian ware is far more abundant than decorated 
ware at Naco. 

Ulua-Comayagua polychrome sequences. — Concerning the sequence 
and association of the rich polychrome pottery styles of the Ulua-Coma- 
yagua Valleys we have the pioneer work of Gordon (1898), the careful 
stratigraphic excavations of the Smithsonian Institution-Harvard Uni- 
versity expedition of 1936 (Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938), and the 
later work of Stone (1941) at Travesia. The preliminary establishment 
of styles and types in a sequential series rests mainly on two sites, Las 
Flores on the Ulua River and Santa Rita on the lower Comayagua River. 
The details of stratification and methods employed are given elsewhere 
(Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938), but it may be stated that a 5.4-meter 
(about 18 feet) refuse deposit at Las Flores yielded prehistoric but 
relatively late polychrome ceramic types, whereas a similar deposit at 
Santa Rita revealed materials similar to Las Flores in the upper level 
but also had several continuous lower levels marked by somewhat earlier 
but closely related ceramic types. A still lower, discontinuous cultural 
level at Santa Rita yielded a quite different and earlier ceramic style, 
Ulua Bichrome, which will be discussed later. Considering the Las 
Flores-Santa Rita excavations as one overlapping unit, we can say that 
two major ceramic strains or decorative styles persist throughout the 
entire period represented by the 33- to 39-foot (10 to 12 m.) refuse 
accumulation. One of these major styles has been designated as Ulua 
Mayoid (pi. 8) and, as the name indicates, is obviously of Mayan and 
northern inspiration. The other major style has been designated as 
Ulua-Bold Geometric (pi. 7) and probably finds it closest analogues to 
the south and east in northern and central Honduras. Each of these 
styles can be more or less arbitrarily split into at least two types: tb^ 


UIua-Mayoid into the Las Flores type (upper and later) and the Santa 
Rita type (lower and earlier) ; the Ulua-Bold Geometric into the San 
Marcos type (upper and later) and the Comayagua type (lower and 

In the following description only the most salient characteristics of 
each style and selected type can be mentioned. It must be remembered 
that, since both styles occur intermingled throughout the same deposits, 
they were in all probability made by one, apparently culturally and 
ethnically composite, population. Under such circumstances a blending 
of ceramic traditions in numerous individual pieces is expectable and 
occurs. However, objective classification of these rich materials into 
the styles and types, representing the poles around which likenesses 
appear to cluster, reveals a remarkable stylistic dichotomy which un- 
doubtedly has ethnological significance. 

Ulua-Mayoid style. — The Ulua-Mayoid style as a single unit is rich 
and complex. Exclusive of the plain, utilitarian types, which are abundant 
but cannot be discussed here, the Ulua-Mayoid style is characterized by 
polychrome painting, rich design, modeling, use of molds, and engraving 
or incising. The most characteristic decorated form is a straight-walled, 
cylindrical vase with elaborate, polychrome designs. 

Las Flores type. — The Las Flores, or later, type of the Ulua-Mayoid 
style (pi. 6, ;"-«) is characterized by red, black, white, or purple designs 
on a bufif, orange, or red slip. These designs are complex, conventional, 
and at times rather crude. The over-all occurrence and flamboyancy 
of design in this type create a somewhat florid impression. The designs 
often seem to represent monstrous masks (pi. 6, ;") or reptilian forms, 
and rim bands with skeuomorphic glyphs occur. The Las Flores type 
of straight-walled vase is relatively thick and usually has hollow cylindrical 
or rectangular tripod feet and two projecting monkey-head lugs (Strong, 
Kidder, and Paul, 1938, pi. 5, /, g.) Designs are sometimes outlined 
with incisions as well as painting, and both incised and well-carved de- 
signs occur (pi. 6, m, and Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938, pi. 5, 
h, d, k, n). In addition to the cylindrical vases there is a considerable 
variety of forms including small bowls and low jars. These latter forms 
often include single pieces decorated with various degrees of blending 
between the Mayoid and the Bold Geometric decorative traditions. 

Santa Rita type. — The earlier or Santa Rita type, of the Ulua-Mayoid 
style is similar to the above but is finer in composition and decoration 
(pi. 8). Designs in red, black, white, purple, and (rarely) blue occur 
on white, black, and orange backgrounds. Though certain of these are 
very complex (pi. 8, e) the majority are more realistic (pi. 8, a, b, d) 
than in the Las Flores type. Seated or standing priestly and "dancing" 
figures (pi. S>, a, b) are of common occurrence. Some are definitely of 
the "processional" Maya type. The Santa Rita type vertical-walled vase 


is usually of thinner and of harder \vare than the Las Floras type. It 
commonly has a flat bottom with no lugs (pi. 8, a, b, d). Flat plates 
on high tripod legs (pi. 8, e, j), elaborate modeled forms (pi. 8, c), and 
a considerable range of smaller jar and vase forms also occur in the 
Santa Rita type. 

Mayoid carved pottery. — Mayoid sculptured and incised pottery (pi. 

6, m) occurs in the lowest levels at Las Flores and in the upper levels 
at Santa Rita, and at both sites this carved subtype is in direct association 
with the Ulua Marble Vaselike ceramic type previously described (p. 78) 
as occurring in the northeast coast region. (Compare pi. 5, d, e, with 
Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938, pi. 6, d-j.) This association of Mayoid 
carved wares with Ulua Marble Vaselike vessels and sherds is significant 
and offers some objective basis to Stone's belief (p. 101) that Maya work- 
manship, as well as local artistic inspiration, was involved in the creation 
of the Ulua Marble Vase style. At present our ceramic classification is 
too broad to place exactly the Ulua Marble Vaselike ceramic type other 
than to say that it seems to form a link or cross tie between the upper 
(Las Flores) and lower (Santa Rita) levels (and ceramic types) of 
both the Ulua-Mayoid and Ulua-Bold Geometric styles in the Ulua dis- 
trict. (Cf. Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938, p. 51.) 

Ulua-Bold Geometric style. — The Ulua-Bold Geometric style, as a 
whole, is quite distinctive from the Ulua-Mayoid style. The two styles, 
however, occur associated in the same sites, and various writers have 
erroneously attempted to arrange them in an evolutionary sequence. 
(See Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938, pp. 119-120.) Just as the vertical- 
walled vase best typifies the Ulua-Mayoid style, so a large-mouthed 
swollen-bodied olla with two vertical handles having monkey-head lugs 
(pi. 7, a, b, d, e) is the most characteristic Ulua-Bold Geometric style 
form. In regard to colors, a clear yellow to orange-red slip decorated with 
interlocking textile, geometric, and conventionalized animal designs in 
red and black is most common. Handled bottles (pi. 3, g), tripod (pi. 

7, c, f) and open bowls, as well as other forms also occur. 

San Marcos type. — The later, or San Marcos type, of the Ulua Bold 
Geometric style is named after a site in the Olancho District where the 
type was early segregated as an isolated unit (pi. 7, a, and Strong, 1934 
b, fig. 54). At Las Flores and Santa Rita, the San Marcos type of Ulua- 
Bold Geometric occurs in the upper levels, intermingled, and sometimes 
blended, with Las Flores type ceramics of Ulua-Mayoid tradition. The 
typical San Marcos type monkey-handled vessel (pi. 7, a, b) is large 
and is often characterized by a broad band of interlocking textile design 
below the rim (pis. 6, i; 7, a). Body designs are usually geometric in 
red and black. Samples of San Marcos type pottery from Olancho and 
the northeast coast seem somewhat brighter in color than those from 
the Ulua-Yojoa region. (Cf. pis. 7, a, with 7, b, c.) 


Conmyagua type. — The earlier, or Comayagua, type of Ulua-Bold 
Geometric occurs in the lower levels at Santa Rita. It is very similar 
in form to the San Marcos type, but the characteristic monkey-handled 
and other vessels are somewhat smaller, thinner, and harder in composi- 
tion. Geometric and textile designs occur on bowls, low vases, and large- 
handled vessels, but the most characteristic design on the Comayagua 
type consists of distinctive conventionalized birds, bats, and other animals 
(pi. 7, d, e). These unusual elongated designs often occur on both the 
body and the neck band of the vessel (pi. 7, d). Colors in the Comayagua 
type consist of bright yellow to orange backgrounds with striking black 
and red designs. In the lower levels at Santa Rita the Comayagua type 
of Ulua-Bold Geometric occurs in close association, and occasionally 
blends, with Santa Rita type ceramics of the Ulua-Mayoid style or tradi 
tion. Such, briefly, is the somewhat complex but sociologically significant 
association of polychrome ceramic wares as at present known in the 
Ulua region. 

Ulua-Yojoa polychrome comparison. — The picture sketched in 
above regarding the association of polychrome ceramic styles on the 
Ulua is apparently repeated in equally interesting but somewhat con- 
densed form for the Lake Yojoa district. Lake Yojoa sites are shallower 
but may be as old as or older than those on the Ulua. The beautiful 
ceramic collections so far collected from Lake Yojoa are in even greater 
need of thorough classification than are those from the Ulua. However, 
sufficient associational data are now available (Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 
1938) to indicate that Lake Yojoa polychrome wares, like those of the 
Ulua, are grouped around at least two major stylistic poles and that 
these styles are associated together in time and place and occasionally 
blend on individual pieces. For all that, the two major styles are strikingly 
distinctive in cultural and artistic inspiration. These major styles are 
here termed the Yojoa-Mayoid (pi. 9, c-j) and the Yojoa Bold Animalistic 
(pi. 10, Or-d). They occur together in rather shallow refuse deposits 
(Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938, p. 76, et seq.) and also in individual 
burial offerings in low mounds (pi. 9, e^h). So far they have not been 
split into earlier and later types. Yojoa-Mayoid style pottery is very 
similar, and often identical, with the Ulua-Mayoid, although the ware 
itself seems technically inferior. It is obviously of Maya inspiration. 
However, the decision whether the Ulua- and Yojoa-Mayoid styles should 
be grouped together must await adequate classification. The second style, 
Yojoa-Bold Animalistic, is characterized by the use of elaborate, con- 
ventionalized zoomorphic and geometric designs. The Yojoa-Bold 
Animalistic is seemingly quite distinctive from the Ulua-Bold Geometric 
style but would seem to have been derived from a related artistic tradi- 
tion. This common stylistic basis is particularly striking in comparing 
conventionalized Yojoa bird and zoomorphic designs with those on Coma- 


yagua type vessels from the Ulua (pis. 7, d, e; 10, a-d). The Yojoa- 
Bold Animalistic style blends more closely with the Mayoid style than 
on the Ulua, but the origin of the animalistic style itself would seem 
to be non-Mayoid. Bold Animalistic designs often occur on, or in, open 
bowls, but monkey-handled ollas as well as tripod vessels with conven- 
tionalized designs similar to Ulua-Bold Geometric vessels also occur in 
the mixed Lake Yojoa polychrome deposits (pi. 10, e, f). The inter- 
mingling, in time and place, that occurs between the two major styles, 
Mayoid and Bold Animalistic, is strikingly illustrated (pi. 9, e^h, and 
Strong, 1937, figs. 75, 77) in the contents of one Lake Yojoa grave that 
contains one fine Mayoid processional vessel (pi. 9, /), one Bold Animal- 
istic vessel with geometric neck designs (pi. 9, g) , and a third style 
(pi. 9, h), closely related to the last, designated as Naranjos I by Stone 
(1941. fig. 75). 

Thus, segregation of styles according to burial contents at Lake Yojoa 
confirms the stylistic associations also specifically established in the refuse 
deposits. Space is lacking to amplify this necessarily complex discussion, 
but it seems clearly indicated that during the period characterized by ornate 
polychrome pottery in both the Ulua and Yojoa regions two quite dis- 
tinctive ceramic decorative styles were contemporaneously in vogue among 
the same populations. Both styles persisted together, intermingling in 
part but still distinctive, over a considerable period of time. One of these 
traditions was definitely northern and Mayoid. In regard to the other 
we can only say at present that it was not Mayoid, may well have been 
local, and perhaps had southern afifiliations. 

A still further parallel in ceramic and stylistic associations between 
the Yojoa polychrome deposits and those of the Ulua is the common 
occurrence in both of Ulua Marble Vaselike vessels in association with 
Mayoid carved or sculptured vessels (pi. 10, g,h). Much careful distribu- 
tional and stratigraphic as well as grave segregation work remains to be 
accomplished before we can delimit these complex and frequently hybrid- 
ized styles in space and time and objectively subdivide them into an 
adequate number of types. Stone's work (1941) at Travesia indicates 
that Yojoa Bold Animalistic type vessels occur at Ulua sites, apparently 
in direct association with Mayoid and Bold Geometric style pottery. 
However, the excavation data presented, demonstrating the association 
between various structures at Travesia and between these and the wide 
range of ceramic styles and types encountered, leave much to be desired. 
Veiy early ceramic types (Stone, 1941, p. 57, fig. 85, b, e, j), quite 
possibly included in the fill of later mounds, are discussed as if they 
were actually contemporary with polychrome wares demonstrably later 
at other sites. As subsequent discussion (p. 117) points out, this seems 
highly improbable. 


Various pottery objects. — A wide variety of modeled human and 
animal figures, modeled whistles, molds, handled incensarios, candelarios, 
and both flat and roller stamps, all made from pottery, occur in refuse 
deposits and graves characterized by the Ulua and Yojoa polychrome 
pottery styles (Gordon, 1898; Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938, fig. 7; 
Stone, 1941). The majority of these are of monochrome pottery, but 
there is no doubt as to their association with the polychrome horizons. 
Earlier forms than these do occur (pis. II, n, r; 12, ;, k), and, while 
some of these are fairly distinctive, even they have not yet been analyzed 
carefully enough to be safely classified unless their exact provenience is 
known. As for the riot of modeled and molded figurines and similar 
objects associated with the polychrome wares, not even a preliminary 
classification has yet been attempted. For this reason attention is called 
to their occurrence and the promising problems they present. A con- 
densed discussion here of such complex and as yet unclassified materials, 
however, would have little value. 

Early horizons. — Turning now to the ceramic complexes or styles 
which can be objectively demonstrated as preceding the polychrome wares 
of the Ulua- Yojoa region in time, we have three which belong to what 
Thompson (1943) has termed the Formative Period in Middle American 
prehistory. None of these ceramic styles is fully known and none has as 
yet been carefully classified. However, their major characteristics and 
relative age are quite clear, and these may be briefly outlined. 

Ulua Bichrome. — The first of these has been tentatively designated 
as Ulua Bichrome (Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938, pp. 61-62, fig. 6 
and pi. 9). The provenience of this material is clear; it lay below and 
was separated by a sterile sand layer from the lowest polychrome levels 
(Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938, fig. 6). Two Ulua Mayoid sherds of 
the finest Santa Rita type which occurred above the sterile sand layer 
capping the Ulua Bichrome deposits have been illustrated elsewhere 
(Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938, pi. 9, t). However, owing to the depth 
of this excavation and its flooding by the rising river, the available sample 
of Ulua Bichrome pottery is small. All sherds from this deep horizon 
are monochrome or bichrome, and polychrome sherds are totally lacking. 
Aside from the coarse utilitarian ware, which has not yet been analyzed, 
the Ulua Bichrome ceramic materials are highly distinctive. One type, 
having an orange slip decorated with faded red or black linear designs 
(pi. 11, g), is apparently Usulutan Ware. The decoration on this type 
closely resembles negative painting because of the brighter slip and dull, 
faded designs. Some of the pieces may prove to be negative-painted 
when carefully studied. One coarse sherd from a flat tripod vessel has 
crisscross red lines on a dull white slip. The majority of the thin, orange 
and red, slipped sherds seem to come from small flat-bottomed vessels 
having small, solid, tripod or tetrapod feet. The occurrence of rocker- 

653334—48 8 



[B.A.E. Bull. 143 


. . ( — ■' 
I / -oil M^B 

Vol. 4] 



stamp decoration is of interest (pi. 11, b). Everted lips with broad 
incisions on the upper surface (pi. 11, d, n), swollen, comma-shaped lips, 
and a few simple painted designs are among the specific characteristics 
which link the present small sampling of Ulua Bichrome with the Playa 
de los Muertos ceramic style. Aside from pottery, the only other clay 
artifact type from the Ulua Bichrome horizon was a vertical stamp with 
geometric design (pi. 11, i). 

Playa de los Muertos style. — As previously stated, the Playa de los 
Muertos horizon in Honduras was first isolated in a series of deep burials 

FiciUKE 10. — Vessel forms of the Playa de los Muertos style, Ulua River, Honduras. 
(After Popenoe, 1934, and Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938, fig. 17.) 


by Dorothy H, Popenoe (1934), Gordon's mixed collections secured 
near the same site include a considerable number of complete Playa de 
los Muertos pottery vessels (Gordon, 1898, pi. 7, n-u, and possibly a-c, 
d, e, h, i), indicating that his deepest excavation had reached this burial 
horizon. These include the majority of unbroken vessels he figures. 
However, a detailed analysis of Gordon's materials has not yet been at- 
tempted. In 1936 the Smithsonian Institution-Harvard University ex- 
pedition's excavation at Farm 11 (Playa de los Muertos, fig. 7) revealed 
a strikingly clear, discontinuous stratification, with Ulua Polychrome 
Period refuse and burials above, and Playa de los Muertos culture refuse 
and occupation levels below, the two cultural horizons being separated 
by 2 meters of sterile yellow clay (fig. 9). Stone (1941, pp. 56-57) 
obscures a very clear situation when she confuses this clean-cut major 
stratification between two distinct cultural horizons with Popenoe's re- 
marks concerning possible slight diflferences in the Playa de los Muertos 
burials alone. The ceramics from the Playa de los Muertos living levels 
and burials are rather complex, and only a bare outline of their major char- 
acteristics can be given here. As was the case in regard to the Ulua 
Bichrome horizon at Santa Rita, the deep Playa de los Muertos horizon 
at Farm 11 did not yield a single polychrome sherd. Vessel forms (figs. 
10, 11) in the Playa de los Muertos style include straight-walled, but 
irregular, vases with flat bottoms ; lower, open bowls of composite sil- 
houette ; round-bottomed pots with constricted orifices and necks ranging 
from direct lips to tall, flaring spouts (Strong, 1937, fig. 76, upper left) ; 
similar pots with single spouts (including human and animal effigy 
vessels), and open bowls with thick lips, comma-shaped in cross section. 
The great bulk of the ware is of monochrome type, and five subtypes 
have been distinguished : ( 1 ) Unslipped, rough, bricky-red to sooty gray, 
(2) slipped and polished orange-red to brown, (3) dark gray to black, 
highly polished ware, (4) slate-gray to buff, highly polished ware, and 
(5) ware with a chalky, white wash. The second, or painted, type is 
rare but forms a definite ingredient of the Playa de los Muertos style. 
Irregular areas are painted with red, red and black, and red and buflf 
colors, sometimes outlined by incisions, while a few sherds have blotchy 
white designs on both inner and outer surfaces. Opposed to this rare 
and haphazard decoration with paint, decoration by polishing, broad in- 
cising, and modeling is very common and is competently executed. In- 
cision with broad lines occurs on necks, bodies, and everted lips. Model- 
ing on vessels includes human and animal eflfigies of some complexity 
(fig. 11, b; pi. 5, a) and the human hand in relief. Paneling, the use 
of flanges, and some filleting also occur. Further details are given 
elsewhere (Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938, pp. 73-75), but a complete 
and distinctive study of all available Playa de los Muertos materials has 
not yet been made. It is obviously an important and early style, char- 

Vol. 4] 



Figure 11. — Vessel forms of the Playa de los Muertos style, Ulua River, Honduras. 
(After Popenoe, 1934, and Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938, fig. 18.) 


acterized by competent polished and incised decoration, as well as a little 
rather amateurish and, apparently, experimental work in simple painting. 

Aside from pottery, the clay figurines known actually to have come from 
deposits of the Playa de los Muertos cultures are particularly interesting 
(pi. 12, j, k; fig. 11, t). All these are hand-modeled, but both a solid, 
naturalistic, and unslipped form (pi. 12, k) and a hollow, conventionalized, 
slipped and polished form (pi. 12, /) were recovered from the refuse de- 
posits. Popenoe's burials yielded both an elaborate naturalistic (fig. 11, f) 
and a cruder conventionalized form (fig. 11, i). Gordon (1898, pi. 10, 
d, f, g) figures three of the solid, seated, and naturalistic forms, as well as 
others which may belong to the Playa de los Muertos horizon. It is 
obvious that a variety of figurine types is represented in the Playa de los 
Muertos cultural horizon, as is even more true of the later, more complex 
Ulua-Yojoa polychrome horizons. Since the figurine forms are so complex 
in both horizons and those of neither group have been either carefully 
studied or classified, it is extremely hazardous to speak of a "Playa de los 
Muertos type" of figurine heads of unstated provenience as Stone does 
(1941, fig. 45). Likewise, the theory that this ancient culture, or integral 
units of it, survived "until quite late" times in the Ulua Valley (Stone, 
1941, p. 57) must be based on more closely controlled evidence than has 
yet appeared to support it. 

The Playa de los Muertos culture awaits adequate definition and descrip- 
tion based upon further study and skilled excavation, but there can be no 
doubt that it is one of the very early and formative ceramic cultures of Mid- 
dle America. 

Yojoa "Monochrome" style. — The third early culture revealed in 
Honduras was discovered at Los Naranjos near Lake Yojoa (Strong, 
Kidder, and Paul, 1938, pp. 111-125, figs. 31, 32). Two excavations car- 
ried through the upper layers containing Yojoa polychrome cultural ma- 
terials penetrated through a meter of sterile yellow clay and gravel into a 
deeper and hitherto unknown cultural horizon. This horizon has been 
barely tested, since time was then lacking to explore it thoroughly. The 
pottery sample from this early level has been tentatively designated as the 
Yojoa "Monochrome" style, since the bulk of the material is of this type. 
However, a very few two-color sherds are present, and this tentative 
name for the style should probably be changed when this cultural horizon 
has been more thoroughly explored. The Yojoa "Monochrome" ware is 
seemingly very crude and simple (pi. 11, n^t) and is crumbly in texture, 
and some of the sherds appear to be waterworn. Rim sherds show a 
majority of low, slightly flaring lips. Some of these are swollen, and both 
vertical and slightly flaring rims are present. The majority of basal sherds 
are from small, flat-bottomed vessels. No spouts, handles, lugs, or feet 
are present in the available collection (about 700 sherds). Only 12 sherds 
show traces of slip or paint. The others range in color from dull buff, 


through dull red, to a grayish black. Despite the obvious erosion on many 
sherds, the majority do not appear to have been slipped or painted. The 
painted sherds include eight that have faded red or pinkish slip (pi. 11, g), 
two with a dull white slip or wash, and two that have definite areas painted 
a dull red and black on the inner surface. Three figurine fragments (pi. 
11, n-r) are of solid, unslipped clay and are apparently hand-modeled. 
These bear some resemblance to the cruder Playa de los Muertos type of 
figurine. If the present sample is at all adequate, this, tlie oldest known 
Lake Yojoa pottery style, appears to be the most primitive ceramic type 
yet encountered in Honduras, and possibly in all Central America. Tech- 
nically, since a few sherds are painted, we should designate this ware as 
Yojoa Bichrome. However, the great majority of sherds are unpainted, 
and all of them are definitely inferior in texture and finish to either the 
Playa de los Muertos style or the Santa Rita Bichrome style. For this 
reason it has been tentatively designated as Yojoa "Monochrome" subject 
to change when an adequate sample is at hand for classification. 

No very obvious relationship, other than the prevalence of monochrome, 
small, flat-bottomed vessels, exists between Yojoa "Monochrome" ceramics 
and the Ulua Bichrome style and even less between the former and the 
Playa de los Muertos style. This is very puzzling, since local people have 
dug up typical, spouted, incised and painted, Playa de los Muertos vessels 
(pi. 5, a, b) at this same site. The occurrence of these two obviously early 
styles, as well as the rich Yojoa polychrome styles in the upper levels, at 
Los Naranjos makes this site one of very great promise in regard to the 
possibility of determining the nature and sequence of a number of pre- 
historic cultures in Honduras. This promise is enhanced by the fact that, 
unlike the deeply sedimented archeological horizons on the northern river 
banks, these similar early horizons at Lake Yojoa seem to be relatively 
quite shallow. 


Concerning nonceramic artifacts from the Ulua- Yojoa region the out- 
standing fact is the paucity of the record. This can be partially accounted 
for on the grounds that the majority of pieces reaching our museums have 
been collector's items, such selection being in vogue even among scientific 
archeologists until rather recent times. However, the results of recent ex- 
cavations where every artifact has been preserved are not strikingly differ- 
ent. In this regard the work of the Smithsonian Institution-Harvard 
University expedition in 1936 revealed very little nonceramic material from 
sites on the Ulua and Comayagua but relatively more from sites near Lake 
Yojoa. The reasons for such local differences are not clear. There follows 
a synoptic discussion of such materials mentioned in the literature. This 
could undoubtedly be amplified were it possible to include a study of all 
museum collections from this region. 


Metal. — Metalworking seems to have been uncommon in the Ulua- 
Yojoa region, and the few pieces on record seem to be mainly the result 
of trade in late periods. At Las Flores, one barbless, copper fishhook 
was the only metal object encountered in the entire season's work on the 
Ulua and at Lake Yojoa (Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938, p. 41). A 
report that gold objects had been found in burial mounds at Lake Yojoa 
(Stone, 1934 a) seems to have no foundation in fact. Blackiston (1910) 
reported a great cache of copper bells (similar to those from the Bay 
Islands, pi. 9) from a cave near the Chamelicon River. According to 
Spinden these probably formed part of a Toltec trader's outfit. Stein- 
may er (1932) gives an analysis of one copper celt from the Ulua. Spinden 
states also (1925, p. 54) that one of two Ulua marble vases uncovered 
near Santa Ana contained a Costa Rican gold amulet of the type traded 
in to Chichen Itza in a late period. From the sporadic nature of the 
record there seems to be little doubt that trade in metallic objects in the 
Ulua- Yojoa region was late and relatively unimportant. As regards metal- 
working the evidence is equally meager. Las Casas (see Strong, 1935, 
pi. 11) speaJcs of the native traders encountered by Columbus in the Bay 
Islands as having "small copper hatchets to cut wood and bells and some 
medals, [as well as] crucibles to melt the copper." Gordon (1898, fig. 34) 
illustrates "crucible-like objects of clay," but there is no evidence that 
they were thus employed. The occurrence of one copper fishhook with 
a burial at Las Flores indicates that copper was used in the later poly- 
chrome period. However, until contradictory evidence is at hand, metal- 
working, or even extensive trade in metals, does not seem to have been 
characteristic of the Ulua- Yojoa region. 

Ground stone. — Marble vases. — In ground stone the carved marble 
vases of the Ulua are justly outstanding (pi. 5, /). The art style repre- 
sented on such vases has been analyzed by Gordon (1898) and Stone 
(1938) and need not be discussed in detail here. The finding of several 
of these vases has been reported by archeologists (Spinden, 1925; Stein- 
mayer, 1932; Stone, 1938, p. 39), but in each case the data concerning 
the exact provenience and association of such discoveries are tantalizingly 
vague. Spinden's statement that a Costa Rican gold amulet of late type 
occurred in one of these vessels has previously been mentioned. Every 
efifort was made by the Smithsonian Institution-Harvard University expe- 
dition in 1936 to secure even a fragment of such a vase in situ so that 
the type could be positively correlated with the ceramic sequence, but none 
were encountered. 

Lacking adequate data on the marble vases themselves, one is forced 
to fall back upon known occurrences of the Ulua Marble Vaselike ceramic 
type (pp. 78-79), which is indubitably closely related to the Ulua marble 
vase in style (pi. 5, d-j). The possible range in time represented by this 
interesting ceramic type is indicated in figure 15 (p. 113). This ceramic 


type on the Ulua occurs overlapping the Las Flores and the Santa Rita 
polychrome periods, but its earliest and latest extensions in time are uncer- 
tain. Throughout its known occurrence on the Ulua it seems to be closely 
associated with Mayoid sculptured and carved pottery. As previously 
stated, this does suggest that the fullblown Ulua Marble vase style was 
the result of a fusion of two art styles, the one Mayoid, and the other 
the one that was responsible for the Bold Geometric tradition in Ulua 

Since the great majority of Ulua Marble Vaselike vessels are so stand- 
ardized, they suggest cheaper copies of rare objects rather than originals, 
or prototypes, as Stone (1941, p. 29) has recently suggested. Spinden 
(1925, p. 540) derives the two-handled, cylindrical, and decorated stone 
bowls, characteristic of northeastern Honduras (pi. 1, top), from the 
Maya pottery vase of this type, whereas Stone (1938, p. 10) believes that 
the pottery form may well have been derived from the more southerly 
stone vessels. The pottery sequence at Las Flores and Santa Rita tends 
to support Stone's view, since two-handled, tripod vases of Mayoid type 
are late here and associated with the Ulua Marble Vaselike type, whereas 
the early Mayoid cylindrical vases at Santa Rita are flat-bottomed and 
without lugs, as is also true in early periods in the great Maya cities. 
Unfortunately, the northeastern Honduras and Costa Rican type of double- 
banded stone bowl has not yet received any careful study, but it seems 
probable that it is a southerly form of which the delicate, annular-based 
Ulua marble vase is merely a highly specialized and very important type. 
The fact that it was so often copied in pottery, which is distributed beyond 
the range of the marble vases themselves, bears this out. 

Until further evidence comes to hand the Ulua Marble vase seems best 
explained as representing a localized, and relatively late, artistic climax 
in the Ulua region. It would seem to have been derived from an older, 
southern, stone bowl-working tradition, locally combined on the Ulua with 
a delicacy of execution which may well have been borrowed from associated 
artists of Mayan extraction. That its form and design remained relatively 
static over a considerable period, as demonstrated by the known time range 
of its pottery imitations, suggests that this vase form and its elaborated 
feline and scroll motifs had the very highest ceremonial importance in all 
northern Honduras. 

Metates, titanos, pestles. — The flat, undecorated, three-legged metate 
seems to have been the characteristic form in the Ulua-Yojoa region. At 
Lake Yojoa, sites of the polychrome pottery period had three-legged 
metates, the majority of which had a broad grinding groove. Flat, ovoid 
lapstones were common there. Manos are usually cylindrical or rectan- 
gular. A conical stone pestle was found at Las Flores. Three shallow 
bed-rock mortars at Los Naranjos on Lake Yojoa seem unique. In the 


older "Monochrome" horizon at Lake Yojoa rectagular manos with bat- 
tered ends and fragments of sandstone grinders occurred. 

Miscellaneous objects of ground stone. — The recorded range of other 
polished artifact types in the region is not large. From Ulua sites of the 
polychrome pottery period it includes rectangular bark beaters, large and 
small celts (including those of greenstone), and a square, flat, polished 
knife (Santa Rita). From Lake Yojoa sites of the same period came 
double-ended hammerstones ; large and small celts (including those of 
jadeite and other greenstone); cylindrical and ovoid bark-beaters; an 
ovoid wedge, or chisel, of greenstone; small round stone balls; and 
jadeite and brown stone beads. Jadeite and greenstone carved faces and 
plaques have been collected on the Ulua and at Lake Yojoa, apparently 
from the polychrome horizon, but there are no good records for such dis- 
coveries. (See W. and D. Popenoe, 1931, fig. 6.) In the Old Playa de los 
Muertos refuse deposits polishing stones and jadeite beads were recovered, 
and Popenoe (1934) found celts, a rough stone knife, and jadeite amulets, 
pendants, and beads with burials of this culture. These have not yet been 
described in any detail. This lack of detailed information on work in 
jadeite and allied materials, from either the polychrome or the Playa de los 
Muertos deposits, is extremely unfortunate since it prevents any com- 
parison of earlier and later forms. 

Chipped stone. — Work in chipped, or flaked, stone in the Ulua- Yojoa 
region is even more scantily represented than are ground-stone forms. 
The prismatic flake knife of obsidian occurs in historic Naco and practically 
all other earlier sites. A cache of these knives with needle-sharp points 
occurred with a burial at Las Flores, as did T-shaped obsidian drills and 
very crudely retouched stone flakes. In the Lake Yojoa polychrome de- 
posits were obsidian and quartzite side scrapers, prismatic obsidian knives, 
and one planoconvex, obsidian dart point with a tapering stem. The Playa 
de los Muertos horizon yielded prismatic obsidian knives and retouched 
obsidian flakes, while the "Monochrome" horizon at Lake Yojoa contained 
obsidian flakes and one flint side-scraper. 

Miscellaneous. — Work in other materials was even less abundant; 
perforated conch shells occur at Ulua sites, a perforated bone at Las 
Flores, ground-down animal ribs at Santa Rita, and necklaces of shell 
beads with Playa de los Muertos burials (Popenoe, 1934). 

Even though the above summary includes only a small proportion of 
the nonceramic materials so far recovered, but not recorded, from the 
Ulua- Yojoa region, the list is still strikingly limited. On the Bay Islands, 
and adjacent mainland, oflfertory caches seem to have yielded the largest 
range of artifact types, but if such occur in the Ulua- Yojoa region they 
have not yet been reported. It is undoubtedly significant that rich refuse 
deposits such as those at Las Flores, Santa Rita, Playa de los Muertos, 
and the Yojoa burial and habitation mounds yield abundant ceramic but 


very few other artifact types. Conditions of preservation in this humid 
jungle country are notably bad, and stone materials are rather scarce; 
hence, the most probable explanation is that outside of pottery and a iew 
stone artifacts, the material culture of these advanced peoples was largely 
based on the use of wood, fiber, bone, and shell, of which all but the smallest 
traces have disappeared. The textile-marked pottery at Naco, like the 
abundant spindle whorls occurring there and, more rarely, in polychrome 
period sites, all bears out the record of history that this was an advanced 
center for the textile arts. Further evidence of this sort must be carefully 
sought for if the full record of a series of very important Middle American 
cultures is to become clear. 



Concerning the archeology of this large and important region it is im- 
possible at the present time to write any systematic account. With the 
exception of the great Maya city of Copan, with which we are only in- 
directly concerned in this summary, there has not been one piece of sys- 
tematic excavation work in the entire area. The few archeological surveys 
so far attempted have covered only a small portion of the area. For this 
reason a brief synopsis of certain observations and a consideration of cer- 
tain major problems in the region must suffice. For present purposes we 
will subdivide the region into the following subareas: (a) Copan and the 
upper Chamelicon River Valley; (b) the Comayagua Valley; (c) the 
Tegucigalpa area; (d) the Olancho Valley; and (e) the Pacific or Fonesca 
Bay area. 

Copan and the upper Chamelicon River Valley. — A number of 
sites on the upper and lower Chamelicon River have been described by 
Yde (1938), Strong, Kidder, and Paul (1938), and others. Those on the 
lower river, around and above Naco, appear to be Mayan, and the majority 
of stone carvings from sites on the upper Chamelicon, such as La Florida 
and El Puente, are undoubtedly Mayan (Yde, 1938). The same is true 
in regard to Paraiso, on an affluent of the Motagua River, as well as a con- 
siderable number of sites on the upper Copan River. (See map, fig. 24, 
a; Yde, 1938, p. 49.) Aside from one distinctive stone carving from La 
Florida (fig. 12, b) no non-Afayan remains have so far been encountered 
in the very limited archeological surveys so far attempted in this rich area. 

Non-Mayan stone sculpture. — Whether the Mayan occupation of the 
site of Copan itself was preceded by that of another and earlier culture 
seems to be a disputed question. The vast majority of the stone carving 
and construction work at this great site is undoubtedly Mayan, but certain 
stone carvings and ceramic types encountered in the older horizons of the 
city may pertain to an earlier occupation. Since these and similar evidence 


of cultural interpenetration have a direct bearing on the problem of culture 
sequence in Honduras, they must be briefly considered, although any de- 
tailed discussion of Copan or other Mayan sites is beyond the scope of the 
present summary. 

Among the numerous stone statues in southwestern Honduras that are 
definitely Mayan in inspiration there are several which seem to have other 
cultural affiliations (fig. 12). Two of these, thought by Lothrop to be 
non-Mayoid, were found built into the foundations of stelae (5 and 4) 
at Copan and presumably antedate the Mayan occupation at that site (fig. 
12, d; Lothrop, 1921, fig. 70, d, e). Lothrop believes that these two 
statues, one of which has since disappeared, are stylistically related to both 
Nicaraguan and Guatemalan Highland statues of non-Mayan origin. The 
same is thought to be true regarding an "alter ego" statue at La Florida 
(fig. 12, b) and the crude anthropomorph from the Ulua (fig, 12, c) 
figured by Gordon. A feline figure or a tall pedestal from Octopeque 
Province in southwestern Honduras (fig. 12, a) is also similar to "peg- 
based" statues from Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and the Guatemalan High- 
lands. Richardson (1940, p. 410) doubts the suggested relationship 
between the substelae statues at Copan with the Nicaragua-La Florida 
type of sculptures for the following reasons : ( 1 ) There is no "alter ego" 
motif in the Copan statues; (2) they are not on a pedestal, column, or 
pillar; (3) they have necklaces, clothing, and feather ornaments, which 
are more characteristic of Mayan than Nicaraguan sculpture; (4) the 
neck appendage on one Copan statue differs from such appendages found 
in Nicaragua ; (5) they are merely delineated on a boulder and not entirely 
sculptured out ; and (6) the figure from stela 4 is of local Copan stone. He 
believes, however, that the two statues in question are far removed from 
the traditional Mayan style at Copan and may well be related to the "crude 
group" at Kaminaljuyii; and he suggests that they might belong to an 
early non-Maya^ horizon represented by the early occurrence of Usulutan 
ware at Copan. This opens interesting possibilities, since at Kaminaljuyii, 
in the Guatemalan Highland, rather similar "crude" statues, are said to 
be associated with what has been termed "Archaic" pottery (Richardson, 
1940, p. 399). 

Ceramic correlations zvith Formative Maya. — Unfortunately, the pub- 
lished data concerning the sequence of ceramic styles at Copan and southern 
Maya sites are as yet far from adequate, Vaillant's earlier correlation 
(1927) of ceramic styles and dated stelae is not adequately illustrated and 
should be brought up to date. Various interesting suggestions made by 
Longyear (1940, 1942) are based on first-hand study of both older and 
recent ceramic collections from Copan and other Mayan sites, but his pub- 
lished articles are very brief and generalized. However, the following sug- 
gested pottery correlations between Peten and Southern Maya seem 
plausible and have a direct bearing on the sequence and probable dating of 

Vol. 4J 



Figure 12. — Honduras stone sculptures, a. Jaguar on pillar, Department of Ocote- 
peque (height 4 ft. 2 in. (1.28 m.)). b, Human figure, La Florida, Department 
of Copan (height 2 ft. 8 in. (0.80 m.)). c. Stone statue, Ulua River, d, Human 
figure, Copan site, from foundations of stela 4 (height, approximately 4 ft. 
(1.22 m.)). e, Other side of b. (After Richardson, 1940, figs. 35-37; c, after 
Gordon, 1898, fig. 4.) 


prehistoric cultures in Honduras. These will become more applicable to 
the Honduras area when the full sequence of cultures in Highland Guate- 
mala has appeared in print. However, the Peten data are more accessible 
at the moment. 

According to Longyear (1942, p. 391), the most primitive-appearing 
ceramics in the southern Maya area are the Yojoa "Monochrome" deposits. 
(See p. 98.) This, as yet little known, ceramic type does not exactly 
correspond with any of the Vtten-Maya prepolychrome styles. The pres- 
ence of crude, hand-molded figurines and the discovery of other traits 
may eventually link it with the Mamom phase in the north and the Playa 
de los Muertos in the south, or it may prove to be earlier than either. 
The Playa de los Muertos style, with its broad, incised designs, single- 
color painting, and solid figurines, apparently links up with the Mamom 
phase to the north (Smith, 1940, p. 249). There are some general resem- 
blances between Playa de los Muertos monochrome vessels and the incised, 
fluted or plain, bottle-necked vessels associated with cremations found in 
caverns about 4 miles from Copan (Gordon, 1896, 1898). This last type 
of pottery has not been reported from the main Copan ruins. It is appar- 
ently early, but it is too little known at present to be safely classified. 

The Ulua Bichrome style (including Usulutan ware) is stylistically 
linked with deep deposits at Cerro Zapote in El Salvador (Lothrop, 1927 
a) which also contain Usulutan ware. Longyear (1942) suggests that 
the batik process employed on ceramics of the second or Chicanel phase in 
the Peten at Uaxactiin may also be temporally and stylistically related to 
the Cerro Zapote and Ulua Bichrome ceramic styles. 

Thus, these two prepolychrome phases in western Honduras, the Playa 
de los Muertos and the Ulua Bichrome, are apparently related to two 
similar Maya (or proto-Ma^-a) phases in the Peten, the Mamom, and 
Chicanel. As Longyear states (1942, p. 393), "Any dating for these early 
levels is necessarily tentative, but since or A. D. 435 in the 
Goodman-Martinez-Thompson correlation, is given for the upper limit of 
the Chicanel [Thompson, 1939, p. 240] we can take this date at present 
as signifying the close of the prepolychrome horizon in the south also." 
More recently Thompson (1943) has given A. D. 300 as the closing date 
for the Formative or Mamom-Chicanel phases in the Peten. In any event, 
actual dates as applied to this borderland area are to be considered as ap- 
proximations at best. 

Ceramic correlations with Classic Maya. — In regard to the later poly- 
chrome styles in western Honduras, apparent correlations with Peten- 
Maya sequence exist, but there are bad gaps in the present record. 
Tzakol-phase ceramic characteristics are said to be rare, but they do occur 
at Copan (Longyear, 1942, p. 393), whereas both Santa Rita and Las 
Flores type Ulua-Mayoid style characteristics are apparently lacking in 
such horizons at Copan. The Tepeu phase in the Peten finds representa- 


tive forms both at Copan and apparently in the Ulua-Mayoid Santa Rita 
type pottery. A characteristic Tepeu form is a flat-based, thin-walled, 
cylindrical vase decorated with human figures and glyph bands, and with- 
out thickened lips, tripod feet, or lugs. As previously indicated (p. 89), 
this type of vase is characteristic of the earlier Santa Rita type ceramics 
in the Ulua-Mayoid series. As Longyear (1942, p. 393) suggests, the 
temporal positions of the (earlier) thin-walled and (later) thick-walled 
vases actually overlap in western Honduras, but the former occurs only in 
the early Santa Rita ceramic type of the Ulua-Mayoid style. According 
to Longyear ( 1942, pp. 393-394), the Tepeu phase, in the Pet en, lasts from (A. D. 633) until (A. D. 987), and this span of time 
may well include the Tepeu forms at Copan and the Santa Rita ceramic 
type on the Ulua River. Another occurrence, recently reported from 
Copan (Longyear, 1940, pp. 269-270), is the discovery of Teotihuacan 
(II-IV) types of pottery in association with "fairly early Copan horizons." 
These are apparently trade wares from Kaminaljuyu in the Guatemala 
Highlands. In time, this intrusion apparently more or less coincides v/ith 
the Tzakol-Tepeu phases, tentatively dated above. Thompson (1943, p. 
122) dates these Mexican influences in Kaminaljuyu as circa A. D. 350- 
650. Heretofore, Mexican influence in Honduras and El Salvador was 
believed to have begun with the Toltec, who, traditionally, migrated south- 
ward from the 10th to the 12th centuries, follov/ing the breakup of the 
Toltec Empire. The fact that Teotihuacan-Mexican influences were present 
in Copan at least several centuries prior to these traditional dates must 
be borne in mind when the complex problems involving various Mexican 
versus Mayan influences in contemporary and later Honduras cultures are 
considered. As Longyear (1942, p. 395) also points out, a known terminal 
point in the Mexican occupation of Honduras is marked by the Naco style 
pottery at that site (p. 88), which is dated as just subsequent to A. D. 
1500 by its demonstrated association with Spanish Colonial pottery. 

Summary of ceramic correlations. — To summarize this important but 
necessarily complex and incomplete treatment of the known relationship 
between Honduras and northern, i.e., Mayan and Mexican, ceramic styles, 
the following outline seems tenable: The two prepolychrome horizons, 
Play a de los Muertos and Ulua Bichrome (Usulutan) in western Hon- 
duras, correspond in certain general characteristics to two similar early 
horizons, Mamom and Chicanel, in the Peten. The earliest date for these 
horizons is speculative, but the latest appears to be from about A. D. 300 
to 435. Between these and the later polychrome horizons in western 
Honduras there is at present a complete break, which is not the case in 
the Peten. This is due to the fact that the Tzakol phase in the Peten 
(A. D. 435 to 633) is almost entirely unaccounted for in western Hon- 
duras, either at Copan or on the Ulua. The next, or Tepeu phase, in the 
Peten (A. D. 633 to 987) is apparently represented at Copan (Longyear, 


1942, p. 393), and possibly on the Ulua, by the Santa Rita type of the 
Ulua-Mayoid style. However, the fact that Ulua-Mayoid style pottery 
generally seems to be rare or lacking at Copan and that Copan style cera- 
mics are generally lacking on the Ulua — but that both styles occur together 
in El Salvador (Longyear, 1940, p. 270) — presents a puzzling problem 
which more adequate data regarding Copan and stratigraphic excavations 
in El Salvador seem most likely to solve. Nevertheless, despite the present 
inadequacy of the record at Copan, and in the remainder of northwestern 
Honduras, wide cultural correlations of considerable depth are already 
clearly apparent. These important matters will be discussed further in 
the conclusion of this section, but here we must return to a brief survey of 
prehistoric central and southwestern Honduras. 

Comayagua Valley. — In the Comayagua Valley, or more technically, 
the Humuya River Basin, only the site of Tenampua on a hill crest south- 
east of the town of Comayagua has been at all carefully explored. Despite 
the surveys of Squier (1853 b, 1869), Lothrop (1927 b), Popenoe (1928, 
1936), and Yde (1938), there is still considerable disagreement as to the 
exact plan of the site. Popenoe, who gives the most complete map (fig. 
13), shows 99 structures, whereas Squier counted over 400 mounds (Yde, 
1938, p. 22). Tenampua was apparently a hilltop fortress and, possibly, 
a religious shrine. Despite a limited water supply, Popenoe notes three 
artificial reservoirs or water holes; the abundance of worn-out metates 
suggests occupation during considerable periods of time. The site is 
strongly fortified by stone walls, as well as by nature (fig. 13), and the 
surface of the mountain top is covered with numerous terraces and rough 
mounds. The latter fall into three main groups, which are formalized 
in arrangement. Yde (1938, p. 22) on the basis of Popenoe's map (fig. 
13) believes that the site was erected during at least two periods of con- 
struction. The mounds are of earth paved with stones, or of rough rocks 
paved with slabs. Crude stone stairways ascend the terraces and certain 
mounds. Two long mounds with slanting inner walls faced with stone 
slabs 3}i feet ( 1 m. ) in height form a ball court. According to Yde ( 1938, 
pp. 19-21), this has a stucco floor. Certain rocks at the site are inscribed 
with simple geometric patterns. Strange to say, the ceramic complex 
from this important site has never been described. Squier (1869) figures 
a remarkable painted vessel from here, with handles and legs suggesting 
twisted cords. It contained chalcedony beads and a pottery whistle. A 
few sherds of polychrome ware collected by Squier are now in the Ameri- 
can Museum of Natural History. They do not conform to any Honduran 
ceramic type with which the author is familar. Popenoe figures another 
tripod vessel (fig. 14) whose polychrome bird design somewhat suggests 
the Yojoa Bold Animalistic style previously described (p. 91). Other 
elaborately painted, tripod bowls, as well as incised pottery, are mentioned 
by Squier ( 1869) . He also noted much broken pottery and burned human 

Plate 1. — Ceremonial cache and urn and skull burials, Honduras. Top: Cere- 
monial deposits of stone bowls, metates, and tables near Plantain River, 
northeastern Honduras. (After Spinden, 1925, fig. 1.) Bottom: Urn and 
skull burials. Bay Islands, Honduras. (After Strong, 1935, pi. 2.) 


Plate 2.— North Coast Applique style vessels, northeastern Honduras. (After 

Stone, 1941, figs. 13-15.) 


Plate 3. — Northeast Coast Honduras pottery types, a-d, North Coast Appliqu6 
style; e-f, North Coast AppUqu6 style, Simple Painted type; g-h, Bold Geo- 
metric style, probably San Marcos type. (After Stone, 1941, figs. 16 and 11.) 


Plate 4. — Stone and metalwork, Bay Islands, Honduras. Top: Small green 
stone anthropomorphic carvings. (Scale: Upper left specimen lyi in. (3 cm ) 
wide.) Bottom: Modeled copper bells. (Scale: Lower left specimen 1% in. 
(2.7 cm.) high.) (After Strong, 1935, pis. 11 and 10.) 


oj \;Z) 

a is" 


^ > 

J3 -^ 

eq c 


M — • 


T3 - 

"J 2 ^. 

O S c3 

a> C 

> 92 

-^ 1—1 ^ OS 

E Si 

e >? 

rti tt 

CO ^ 

o i2 

o ^ 
Ah >> 

(^ M 

"^ <! 

>> to 

>, • 
O ^ 

l>^ CO 


S " 

O . , 

lO S 03 

03 00 

;z; cK 



Plate 6. — Honduras pottery styles and types, a-g, Naco style; h, i, Bold 
Geometric style, San Marcos type; j-n, Ulua Mayoid style, Las Flores type; 
m, Mayoid carved subtype. (After Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938, pis. 
3 and 5.) 

Plate 7. — Bold Geometric style pottery, a, San Marcos type (San Marcos, 
central Honduras); b, c, probably San Marcos type; d, e, f, Santa Rita type. 
(From Santa Rita, Ulua River, Honduras.) 

Plate 8. — Ulua Polychrome vessels, Mayoid style, Santa Rita type, Santa Rita, 
Honduras.) (After Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938, pi. 8.) 


Plate 9. — Yojoa Polychrome vessels, Lake Yojoa, Honduras, a-d, Mayoid 
style; e-h, group of vessels from a single grave at La Ceiba, Lake Yojoa, Poly- 
chrome Period; e, uncertain style; /, Mayoid style; g, Bold Animalistic style; 
h, Bold Animalistic style, Naranjos I type, {e-h on different scale than others.) 
(After Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938, pi. 12; and Strong, 1937, fig. 75.) 

f ;^i 



Plate 10. — Yojoa Polychrome and other vessels, Lake Yojoa, Honduras, a-d, 
Bold Animalistic style; e-f. Bold Geometric style; g. Crude Ulua Marble 
Vaselike type; h, Mayoid carved subtype. (After Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 
1938, pis. 13 and 14./ 

^ # 



T'W / 




o 5 

cm. • 

Plate 11.— Early ceramic types, Honduras, a-m, Ulua Bichrome from deepest 
level, Santa Rita; n-t, Yojoa Monochrome, Los Naranjos. (After Strong. 
Kidder, and Paul, 1938, pis. 9 and 15.) 

Plate 12. — Playa de los Muertos style sherds and figurines, Honduras. (After 
Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938, pis. 10 and 11.) 

Vol. 4] 



and animal bones at the site. A comprehensive and objective description 
of Tenampua ceramics is very badly needed. Plain stone metates, with 
and without legs, and broken ovoid muUers are abundant at the site. 

Popenoe uncovered an elaborately carved stone metate of openwork 
Nicoyan or Costa Rican type. Small stone balls and obsidian lance points 
complete the reported artifact inventory from this important site. Popenoe 
(1936, pp. 560, 571) suggests that Tenampua may be identified with the 
Lenca fortress of Guaxeregin destroyed by Montejo, but Yde (1938, p. 21) 
denies this possibility on geographic grounds. No post-Contact materials 
have been reported from the site. Both Popenoe and Yde agree that the 
main structures and artifact types at Tenampua do not appear to be Mayan 

653334 — 48 9 



[B.A.E. BuU. 143 

or Mexican in character but rather show strong Nicaraguan and Costa 
Rican influences. However, the true significance of this superficially well- 
known site will not become clear until it has been the scene of more inten- 

FiGURE 14. — Pottery vessel from Tenampua, Honduras. Decoration in cream, brick 
red, and dark brown. (After Popenoe, 1936, fig. 2.) 

sive excavations, accompanied by adequate ceramic and other artifact type 

Concerning the various mound groups and similar sites, as well as a 
few artifacts all briefly mentioned as occurring in or near the town of 
Comayagua, at Yarumela, at the north and south ends of the Comayagua 
Valley, and around the town of Siguatepeque, the reader is referred to 
Yde (1938, pp. 11-27). Long ago Squier (1859) pointed out that the 
local Indians, presumably Lenca, still made annual pilgrimages to their 
immediately pre-Conquest village sites in the vicinity of the historic town 
of Comayagua, and mentions at least five such ruins within a league 
(about 3.5 km.) of the town. None of the important Contact sites have 
yet been identified nor described. Pottery from such sites would pre- 
sumably be Lenca. Here is a promising lead to the historic approach in 
Honduras archeology which remains to be developed. Until more ex- 
ploration and scientific excavation have been accomplished in this part 
of central Honduras the nature of prehistoric southern and northern 
cultural interpenetrations, now becoming obvious slightly to the north, will 
remain obscure so far as concerns one of the most immediate sources of 
southern elements. 

Tegucigalpa area. — In the valley of the upper Choluteca River, in that 
part called Rio Grande, is located the city of Tegucigalpa, the modern 
capital of the Republic of Honduras. Unlike the Comayagua Valley, 
that of Tegucigalpa is surrounded by high mountains on all sides, and 


apparently it was thinly occupied in pre-Columbian times. It is at present 
a center for mining activities, but apparently the native peoples of the 
region, like those of northwestern Honduras, were little interested in gold 
and silver. In any event, no ruins or mound sites have yet been reported^ 
from this pleasant and fertile valley, and the few artifacts described in 
print as coming from here offer little tangible information (Yde, 1938, 
pp. &-10). Passing toward the Olancho Valley, Wells (1857, p. 244) 
describes and figures some sort of natural or artificial structure made of 
blocks of stone on a hilltop 1 league north beyond the crossing of the 
Guampu River on the Talanga road. Neither the drawing nor the de- 
scription conveys a clear picture of what was actually encountered. Re- 
cent investigations in this vicinity have not verified Wells's account. No 
vestiges of such a structure now exist, nor does it appear likely that 
there was a building (personal communication from Doris Z. Stone.). 

Olancho Valley. — The Olancho Valley, another gold-producing region, 
was early the scene of conflicts between the followers of Cortez in the 
north and Pedrarias in the south. Unfortunately, we know little of the 
archeology of this important central area except that there are a number 
of large mound groups in the valley (Strong, 1934 b, p. 47; 1935, pp. 
159-160). There are several mound sites on the Olancho and Guayape 
Rivers, in the vicinity of Juticalpa. One of these, called Dos Quebradas, 
consists of a great number of earth and stone mounds covering an 
enormous area. The majority of these are small, suggesting house 
mounds, but some are large, ranging from 30 to 40 feet (10 to 13 m.) 
in height. One of them is covered with large granite slabs, many of 
which formerly stood erect. The largest, about 12 feet (4 m.) high, had 
recently (before 1933) been knocked down by lightning. Broken pottery 
is abundant at the site. The most striking pottery is of Bold Geometric 
style. Both monkey-handled ollas and large tripod vessels of composite 
silhouette occur. The latter have hollow feet, modeled to represent alli- 
gator or other reptile heads, which contain rattles. Colors consist of a 
dull yellow or a brighter orange slip with red and black designs, which 
are either geometric, textilelike, or, occasionally, symbolic and vaguely 
suggesting aberrant Mayoid, Mexican, or Chorotegan motifs. In addi- 
tion. North Coast Applique pottery of the less elaborate forms occurs at 
the site. A pottery earplug, a small celt of greenstone, and the obsidian 
flake knives were also found. 

At San Marcos, on the Guayape River, are large earth mounds with 
the same ceramic types. The Bold Geometric Ware available from San 
Marcos forms one stylistic unit that has here been designated as the San 
Marcos type of Ulua Bold Geometric (p. 90 and pi. 7, a). North Coast 
Applique pottery of simple form also occurs at San Marcos and is the 

1 Stone has conducted recent investigations in this region, locating numerous ruins. A report 
of this work will eventually be published by Peabody Museum, Harvard University. 


only style present at other earth-mound groups noted in Olancho. Other 
types of artifacts are rare on the surface of these sites. Excavation at 
San Marcos, or elsewhere in the Olancho region, was very superficial, 
but it is obviously a promising and important area. 

The apparent absence in Olancho Valley sites of Mayoid forms, and 
the predominance of the Bold Geometric style, throw a faint but promis- 
ing gleam of light on the probable source of this Bold Geometric element 
in the Ulua-Yojoa mixed deposits. Careful excavations in this promising 
central region should give vitally needed information concerning the 
cultural relationships that existed in prehistoric times between north- 
western Nicaragua, the northeast coast regions of Honduras, and the 
Maya borderlands along the Ulua River, Lake Yojoa, and the El 
Salvador-Guatemala frontiers. 

Pacific or Fonseca Bay area. — It seems anticlimactic to close our dis- 
cussion of central and southwestern Honduras with only a brief quoted 
paragraph on the Pacific or Fonseca Bay area, which should, by reason 
of its geographic position, be the key to the prehistoric interrelationship 
between Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. However, as the work 
of Rivas is unavailable at the time of writing, we can quote only the 
following: "A young German photographer, Fritz Wellerman, living 
in Tegucigalpa, has collected a number of small stone figures from Zacate 
Grande Island in Fonseca Bay, and Prof. Pedro Rivas of Tegucigalpa 
observed large idols, pottery, and mounds on the same island; in his 

'Monografia de la Isla Tigre y Puerto de Amapala' 

[Rivas, 1934, p. 26] he describes a 4 km. long and 2 km. wide zone 
where these artifacts occur" (Yde, 1938, pp. 18-19). Thus we conclude 
our incomplete survey of the very incompletely known, but highly im- 
portant, archeological region of central and southwestern Honduras. 



As was the case in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, ceramic wares or styles 
prove to be the most effective links between the historic and the pre- 
historic periods in Honduras. Other traits of material culture may later 
prove to have equal or even greater value, but at present inadequate 
excavation prevents detailed structural comparisons, and the remaining 
inventory of comparable artifact types does not approach pottery decora- 
tion as a sensitive index of cultural change and ethnic affiliation. For 
this reason a diagrammatic chart has been prepared of known Honduras 
ceramic styles and types, with a tentative estimate of their probable dura- 
tion (fig. 15). 

This chart includes the northeast coast and Ulua-Yojoa regions. It 
does not include the Copan {Mayan) sequence, since full data are not 

Vol. 4] 



now available, nor does it cover central and southwestern Honduras, since 
no adequate scientific data are available from these regions. Sequence 
of styles and types in figure 15 rests primarily on demonstrable, strati- 
graphic sequences in the Ulua-Yojoa region (Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 




,— V 
































O G 

O O 

I P 





































1938), and the basis for actual dating is derived from probable correla- 
tions between undated Honduras and dated Mayan styles previously 
discussed in regard to Copan and the Peten (p. 106). In the present 
sections we are primarily concerned with those ceramic styles and types 


which directly, or indirectly, lead up to historic tribes or ethnic groups. 
The earlier, discontinuous, ceramic horizons dated prior to A. D. 500 
will be mentioned again in the final section. 


Naco style. — The Naco style (fig. 15) is definitely historic and of 
Mexican origin. It occurs at a documented site in direct association with 
European porcelain sherds. The style seems to be late prehistoric in 
Mexico and evidently pertains to the latest Mexican or Nahuatl intrusion 
into Honduras. Whether this occupation should be called Aztec, Pipil, or 
Nahuatl remains to be determined. Similar Mexican groups are known 
to have been located near Trujillo, in Olancho, near Comayagua, and in 
Chapagua and Papayeca on the northeast coast (Stone, 1941, pp. 15-16). 
None of these sites, nor the ceramics associated with them, have yet been 
located or described. The problem of Mexican intrusions into southern 
Central America is extremely complex. Thompson (1943, p. 122) points 
out that there may have been three rather than two main periods of 
Mexican migration. In any event, Naco style ceramics and the associated 
cultural complex at Naco clearly mark a terminal point in the last in- 
trusion since it has a post- 1500 date. 

Bay Island Polychrome style. — Considering the ceramic styles in 
order, one can say little concerning the Bay Island Polychrome style 
(fig. 15) except that it is apparently late. The extremely conventionalized 
and florid decoration accords more closely with the later Las Flores type 
of the Ulua Mayoid than it does with the earlier Santa Rita type. How- 
ever, Bay Island Polychrome is a distinctive style despite the fact that its 
vessel forms blend with those of the North Coast Applique style. It is 
also rather unusual in being associated with Plumbate ware. In Mexico, 
Thompson (1943, p. 128) states that three centuries intervened be- 
tween the disappearance of the Plumbate export trade and the Conquest. 
Whether this was so in Honduras we do not know. No Contact material 
has been found with Bay Island Polychrome, although it is associated 
with metalwork which appears to be late in this part of Honduras. This 
fact, and the apparent relationship between Bay Island Polychrome and 
North Coast Applique, suggest that the basic ethnic affiliations of the 
former will eventually prove to be similar if not identical with those of 
the latter. The particular cultural intrusion, however, that led to the 
development of this localized polychrome style remains to be determined. 

North Coast Applique style. — North Coast Applique style ceramics 
have been extended into the historic period on somewhat shaky grounds 
(fig. 15). Stone (1941, p. 20) has attempted to demonstrate that the 
Northeast Coast Applique style pottery occurs in historic Paya sites. 
Near the old town of San Esteban Toyazua, established as a Paya mis- 
sion in 1807, 284 years after the Conquest, Stone found abundant pottery 


of this style. No Contact materials, however, are reported, and the case 
for historic identification still rests on the fact that North Coast Applique 
ceramics occur in most parts of the recorded territory of the Paya. It 
is highly probable that the Paya did make pottery of this style, but this 
cannot be regarded as indisputably demonstrated as yet. However, in 
the case of the neighboring Jicaque, at Cangelica and Subirana, Stone 
(1942, p. 380, fig. 43) did find ceramics, including some of a generalized 
North Coast Applique style, in reputedly Jicaque sites associated with 
glass beads. It is on this slender but tangible bit of evidence that I have 
here extended the North Coast Applique style into the historic period 
(fig. 15). The style, as represented in these protohistoric finds, had 
apparently degenerated from its earlier prehistoric elaboration in the 
Paya country (Stone, 1941) and on the Bay Islands (Strong, 1935), but 
enough incision, applique work, and modeling on monochrome ware re- 
main to link safely these various manifestations. 

We have previously mentioned the close relationship that exists between 
Highland Applique in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, and the North Coast 
Applique style in Honduras. In both north and south the applique style 
occurs in territories occupied almost exclusively by Chibchan, or probably 
Chibchan-speaking peoples, and there is a high probability that the style 
pertained to the Guetar in the south and the Paya, Jicaque, and related 
peoples in the north. As to the age of this ceramic style in the north, 
as in the south, we have as yet no direct evidences. It has been assigned 
a terminal date here (fig. 15) owing to the fact that the North Coast 
Applique style contains the Ulua Marble Vaselike ceramic type which, 
on the Ulua River, stratigraphically overlaps the two Ulua-Mayoid style 
types. Las Flores and Santa Rita (fig. 15). How much earlier this 
or other types of the North Coast Applique style may have been made 
in Honduras remains to be determined. This is an important problem, 
since it involves the probable time of a major Chibchan, or a related 
southern Central American thrust from the south into the north. 

Ulua-Mayoid style. — In regard to the Ulua-Mayoid style (fig. 15 ; 
pis. 6, j-n; 7) there is a distinct possibility that the latest Las Flores 
type persisted into early historic times, but we have as yet no tangible 
proof of this. The ethnic linkage of the style with the Maya rests on 
its clear relationship to known Mayan styles in the north rather than on 
any direct historic evidence, although Ma^'an-speaking peoples are known 
to have occupied this northwestern region in historic times. (See linguistic 
map, p. 50.) The sequence and characteristics of the two types included in 
this style. Las Flores and Santa Rita, and their apparent tenuous con- 
nections at Copan, have already been discussed. Perhaps the outstanding 
thing about this definitely Mayan style on the Ulua, and again in the 
Lake Yojoa district, is the fact that it does not occur by itself, as is the 
case in most Maya sites to the north, but is often found in direct associa- 


tion with other styles, Bold Geometric and Bold Animalistic (fig. 15 
and pis. 7, 9), which do not seem to be at all Mayan in inspiration. 
This, coupled with the fact that neither type of the Ulua-Mayoid style 
occurs at Copan during its earlier "great period" of the dated stelae, 
leads one to conclude that the Ulua River and Lake Yojoa populations 
that made the Ulua and Yojoa Mayoid pottery, as well as that of Bold 
Geometric and Bold Animalistic styles, were mixed, part Maya and part 
alien. This leads to a consideration of the latter styles as well as the 
probable ethnic composition of this alien, or non-Mayoid, element at 
such mixed Ulua- Yojoa sites. 

Non-Mayan styles of the Ulua- Yojoa region. — The non-Mayan 
ceramic elements in these interesting composite sites on the Ulua River, 
and at Lake Yojoa, are as follows: The Bold Geometric style (including 
the earlier Comayagua and the later San Marcos types), the Bold Ani- 
malistic style, and the Ulua Marble Vaselike type of the North Coast 
Applique style. The Bold Geometric style does not occur, so far as 
known, in predominantly Mayan territory, but it does occur, either isolated 
or associated with North Coast Applique style ceramics, in the Olancho 
district of central Honduras (see p. Ill), on the Bay Islands, and on 
the adjacent mainland. The Olancho region is in the heart of historic 
Lenca country, the Bay Islands were probably Paya territory, and the 
adjacent mainland is Paya and Jicaque country. (See linguistic map, 
p. 50.) In protohistoric sites in the Yoro district, presumably Jicaque, 
typical Bold Geometric style handles with raised, monkey-head lugs 
(Stone, 1941, figs. 42, /; 43, k') occur in association with North 
Coast Applique style ceramics. The Ulua Marble Vaselike pottery type 
to pertain to the Lenca, Jicaque, Paya, and related peoples east of the 
occurs on the Bay Islands and the adjacent mainland, in historic Paya 
territory. Thus, this general northeastern ceramic complex including 
Bold Geometric and North Coast Applique styles and types would appear 
Ulua. The exact affiliations of the Yojoa Bold Animalistic style are 
not so clear, since the style occurs in El Salvador under as yet unknown 
circumstances, but in Honduras it centers in Lenca territory and is ap- 
parently related to the Bold Geometric style, which again occurs isolated 
in Lenca territory. Thus, the non-Mayoid ceramic element in the mixed 
Ulua- Yojoa polychrome sites would, therefore, appear to be predominantly 
Lenca and Jicaque, with possibly some Paya ingredients (Ulua Marble 
Vaselike type ceramics). This is the general southern or easterly ceramic 
complex which met, occasionally blended with, but also for a considerable 
period existed side by side with, the Mayan ceramic tradition along its 
southern borders in the Ulua- Yojoa region. 

The sociological basis for this state of affairs can only be surmised. 
It seems logical, however, to postulate that Mayan and Lencan, as well 
as Jicaque groups, had intermarried and formed numerous composite 


communities along the Ulua and at Lake Yojoa. In such communities 
the two schools of pottery-makers had in each case largely maintained 
their group artistic traditions over a considerable period despite parallel 
changes in both traditions through time and some blending in the less 
typical ceramic forms. The record in the ground fully justifies such 
an interpretation, but much more extensive work in structures, as well 
as in refuse heaps and burial deposits, is needed before full light can 
be thrown on this extremely interesting case of peaceful cultural inter- 
action between peoples of apparently quite differently derived cultural 
traditions. It is tempting to visualize a period after the "fall" of the 
"Old Maya Empire" at Copan when the scattering Maya, abandoning 
their great stoneworking tradition and stela cult, pushed in small groups 
to the north and east, accepting extended hospitality from the various 
alien peoples of their southern .borderland. That something of this sort 
occurred seems quite possible, but since neither the exact nature of the 
"fall of Copan" nor the full details of this interesting cultural amalgama- 
tion to the north are as yet clear, such speculations are premature. In 
any event, it is obvious that cultural interrelationships along this border 
area were not only complex but also extremely interesting from both 
the historical and the sociological viewpoint. 

Discussion. — In regard to the attempt to establish definite historic 
correlations between sites, ceramic complexes, and historic tribes, the 
efforts of Stone (1941, 1942) are highly praiseworthy. However, the 
extremely complex cultural interactions in aboriginal northwestern Hon- 
duras, as well as the many obscurities of early post-Conquest history, 
make this a very difficult and meticulous task. Thus, the postulated 
correlations between the historic Paya and the North Coast Applique 
ceramic style (Stone, 1941), while highly probable in a general sense, 
is still not historically established. Furthermore, it is misleading to 
attempt to limit the identification of such a widespread ceramic style 
to only one of the many linguistic groups, or subgroups, such as the 
Paya, which appear to have been associated with it. Similarly, in regard 
to the Jicaque, where the historic correlation (like that at Naco) is based 
on an actual association with Contact materials, the limited ceramic sample 
seems to contain at least two definite styles, the North Coast Applique 
and the Bold Geometric. 

In the case of the Lenca linguistic groups the situation promises to 
be even more complex. While no absolute historic Lenca ceramic cor- 
relations have yet been established, there is a high probability that the 
Bold Geometric ceramic style, the Bold Animalistic style, possibly the 
North Coast Applique style (in the north), and certain of the ceramic 
styles encountered at Tenampua are all Lenca. Such linguistic designations, 
particularly in regions of high culture, apply to a wide variety of cultural 


groups which have specialized in certain areas and also developed over 
a long period of time. 

From the archeological standpoint each historic datum point which can 
be established with reasonable certainty, such as that at Naco for the 
late Nahuatl and at Cangelica and Subirana for the obscure Jicaque, is 
a very definite gain. Such correlations must, however, be carefully in- 
terpreted in terms of the larger cultural wholes and realities of which 
they are a part. Above all, they must be considered in terms of scien- 
tifically demonstrated temporal relationship. An example of such dis- 
regard is the obviously erroneous statement that certain Ulua Bichrome 
incised and rocker-stamped sherds should be classified as historic "Sula- 
Jicaque" (Stone, 1942, p. 379, fig. 31), despite the fact that while simple 
incision occurs in practically all horizons, rocker-stamping (pi, 11, &, and 
Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938, pi, 9, e) and Usulutan ware are strictly 
limited to this one early horizon in Honduras and do not occur at all 
in the "S\x\a.- Jicaque" sample. Similarly, the point already raised re- 
garding the assertion that the Playa de los Muertos ceramic type persisted 
until "quite late during the Indian occupation of the Sula-Ulua" (Stone, 
1941, p. 57) is based on uncontrolled evidence which, if accepted, would 
refute the findings of two carefully controlled stratigraphic excavations 
(Popenoe, 1934; Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938). However, in dealing 
with these earliest known Ulua Bichrome and Playa de los Muertos 
horizons in Honduras (see fig, 15), or with the possibly earlier Yojoa 
"Monochrome" horizon, we have reached a point where the nonconformity 
of the temporal sequence in Honduras (between circa A, D, 600 and 300, 
see fig, 15) indicates that further attempts at any direct historic cor- 
relations are as yet unjustified, 


The earlier statement that the western boundary region of modern 
Honduras seemed to mark a meeting point between northern and southern 
prehistoric cultures seems justified in the light of present-day archeo- 
logical knowledge. Such knowledge is at present inadequate in both 
space and time coverage, but what objective data we have reveal a fascinat- 
ing interplay of cultural forces in this area. Along the Ulua River at 
Lake Yojoa, and in all probability south through El Salvador, Maya 
cultures of the later polychrome pottery periods are seen to meet and 
intermingle with those from the south. These southern cultural elements 
were apparently carried by such native groups as the Lenca, Jicaque, 
and Paya, although the Paya seem more closely identified with an ap- 
plique monochrome pottery tradition which is apparently derived from, 
or basic to, the Highland region in Costa Rica, 

The sources of the polychrome pottery styles associated with this south- 
ern or Honduras cultural element, i.e., Bay Island, Polychrome, Bold 


Geometric, and Bold Animalistic, are as yet uncertain. They occur 
by themselves and isolated from Mayan or Mexican styles in northern 
and central Honduras, but they may originally have been derived from 
Chorotegan or Mexican culture centers in western Nicaragua and Costa 
Rica. Until we have objective excavation data from the great archeo- 
logical blank now formed by south-central Honduras, El Salvador, and 
practically all Nicaragua, the answers to such questions can only be 
guessed at. A similar unanswered question involves the exact relation- 
ship that existed between the various Mayan ceramic styles on the Ulua, 
at Lake Yojoa, at Copan, and in El Salvador, as well as their respective 
relationship to the earlier or Formative Period. The answer to these 
questions may be found in El Salvador, but further excavation and publi- 
cation are vitally needed in the other regions as well. Concerning the 
various Mexican intrusions into Honduras and southern Central America 
our only objective data at present are a few such terminal points as Naco. 
Until more is known about the relative time and nature of such Mexican 
invasions we cannot hope to understand the role played by the Meso- 
American cultures in Central America either in the western Nicaraguan 
and Costa Rican culture centers, nor in its wider peripheral manifestations. 
With the possible exception of Copan, there is at present in Honduras 
a complete break in continuity between the polychrome pottery horizons 
and what may be termed the Formative cultures of northern Middle 
America. In Honduras these include the Ulua Bichrome, the Playa 
de los Muertos, and, probably, the Yojoa "Monochrome" horizons. The 
last, contraiy to an earlier estimate (compare fig. 15 with Relative 
Chronological Chart, Strong, 1943, p. 42), may be the oldest of the three, 
but it is too little known at present to even suggest wider correlations. 
There are, however, already clear indications of relationship between the 
Ulua Bichrome and the Playa de los Muertos horizons on the one hand 
and the Mamom-Chicanel {Maya or proto-ikfaya) phase in the Peten 
area on the other. When more information is available concerning the 
comparable early periods in the intervening Guatemala Highland area, 
the nature and direction of these relationships should be clearer. How- 
ever, to the south of Honduras no evidences of any comparable early cul- 
ture horizon are yet known until one reaches the Coast of northern and 
central Peru. Here the Early Ancon-Supe, or Chavinoid, cultures seem 
quite similar in cultural content and probable age to the Playa de los 
Muertos horizon in Honduras. (See Strong, 1943, pp. 31-33 and Rela- 
tive Chronological Chart.) How significant such spatially distant cultural 
correlations may prove to be it is too early to say. It seems obvious, how- 
ever, that careful and deep excavations in strategic sites in the intervening 
regions of southern Central America and northern South America should 
go far toward solving this and other important problems which no amount 
of speculation or specimen-collecting can hope to touch. 



Blakiston, 1910; Gordon, 1896, 1898; Kidder (see Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938) ; 
Longyear, 1940, 1942; Lothrop, 1921, 1926 b, 1927 a, 1927 b; Paul (see Strong, 
Kidder, and Paul, 1938) ; Popenoe, D, 1928, 1934, 1936 ; Popenoe, W. and D., 1931 ; 
Richardson, 1940; Rivas, 1934; Smith, 1940; Spinden, 1925; Squier, 1853 b, 1859, 
1869; Steinmayer, 1932; Stone, 1934 a, 1938, 1941, 1942; Strong, 1934 a, 1934 b, 
1935, 1937, 1943; Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938; Thompson, 1939, 1943; Vaillant. 
1927; Wells, 1857; Yde, 1938. 


By Wm. Duncan Strong 


As is true of most of Central America, only the most obvious or gen- 
eralized archeological provinces have as yet been distinguished in Costa 
Rica and Nicaragua. (See map 3.) To date, demonstrated culture se- 
quences are unknown; hence, it is impossible further to subdivide these 
larger areas into those which existed during successive periods prior to 
the Conquest For present purposes we shall, therefore, take Lothrop's 
two main archeological areas (1926 b, vol. 1. fig. I, p. xxv), the Pacific 
region and the Highland region, and add to these another region that 
is even less known, the Eastern Coastal Plain. In general, the Pacific 
region, as considered here, includes what Johnson (p. 44) has designated 
as the Pacific Borderlands. It includes also the Nicoya Peninsula, which, 
from a strictly geographic standpoint, can also be included with the 
Southern Highland area. Too little detailed information is available 
to tell whether the Boruca area belongs archeologically with the High- 
land or the Pacific region. For present purposes it is included with the 
latter. In regard to the Pacific region it is known to be archeologically 
rich, but, with one exception, it has as yet received little systematic 
excavation. The Highland region in Costa Rica is fairly well known, 
since it includes the thickly inhabited "Meseta central." However, as 
Lothrop pointed out in 1926, we have to thank Hartman for the only 
published scientific excavation work in either the Pacific or the Highland 
region. Unfortunately, in 1946, this strange state of affairs is still true. 
As regards the Eastern Coast Plain, which from the archeological stand- 
point apparently includes the Nicaraguan Lowland, this vast jungle area 
is still largely unexplored scientifically; hence, very little can be said 
about it. 

The names and locations, as well as a brief sketch of the history of 
Costa Rican, Nicaraguan, and other Central American tribes, have already 
been presented (pp. 49-64). The distribution of native culture types in 
Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, etc., at the time of the Conquest is dis- 
cussed at considerable length in a subsequent section (pp. 185-193 ) . Here 
we shall confine our treatment to a description of the archeological remains 



themselves, making use of tribal names only in the few cases where the 
association between ethnological and archeological materials or horizons 
has been demonstrated on a sound historical basis. Such exact correlations 
are highly to be desired but are lamentably rare in Central America. On 
the other hand, numerous correlations between historic tribes and archeo- 
logical remains have been suggested, and certain of these will be mentioned 
subsequently, taking care to distinguish the few proved ethnoarcheological 
associations from those that seem probable or merely possible. Since 
the admirable archeological summary of Costa Rica and Nicaragua by 
Lothrop (1926 b, vols. 1, 2) has not yet been superseded, this work 
forms the basis of much of the present outline and should be consulted 
for further details, particularly concerning ceramics, lists of sites, and 
general bibliography. The present account adds certain more recent 
findings and interpretations. 


Surface structures. — The prehistoric structures of Costa Rica and 
Nicaragua are not particularly striking. In the Pacific region flat-topped 
mounds of earth and stone occur, often surmounted or surrounded by 
stone statues. There are no records or evidences of temples on such 
mounds. According to historic accounts, mounds stood in the temple 
courtyards. The irregular arrangement of mounds and statues in the 
Pacific region is indicated by an example from Zapatero Island, Nicara- 
gua (fig. 16). Mounds of stone that are presumably domiciliary reach 
a size of 200 feet (60 m.) in length, 60 feet (18 m.) in width, and 10 
feet (3 m.) in height. Small, low mounds of earth and stone are more 
common. Many of these are apparently raised house sites. Small cir- 
cular mounds 20 to 40 feet (6 to 12 m.) in diameter were also used 
for burial and, in some cases, a short stone column with or without 
carving surmounted the mound. On Ometepe Island in Lake Nicaragua 
burial mounds are surrounded by a ring formed of stone slabs set on 
end. Refuse heaps, often of large size and considerable depth such as 
that at Filadelfia, are reported. A number of these appear to be rich 
in potsherds and should offer excellent stratigraphic possibilities. (See 
Lothrop, 1926 b, vol. 2, List of sites, p. 421 et seq.). Shell mounds 
occur at several places on the coast of Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Stone 
"dump heaps" or "quarries" marked by incomplete stone statues, seats, 
and metates are reported in the Terraba Plain, and an extensive flint 
quarry or workshop at Tablon, Nicaragua. 

Stone statues. — The stone statues of the Pacific region are well 
known and occur both with mounds and in isolation. They range roughly 
from 4 to 12 feet (1.2 to 3.6 m.) in height and represent human beings, 
animals, or both (pi. 13 and fig. 17). Examples from the Nicaraguan 
lake region are among the most striking. Stone statues of the Pacific 

fttnta dti Sdfat* 








- / 



R ■' '"^ J -^"^ii^ ? 


PiiiiCa iilas flyurmM 

I a. 

* - 

Figure 16.— Mounds on Zapatero Island, Nicaragua. (After Bovallius, 1886.) 



Figure 17. — Stone sculptures from Costa Rica and Nicaragua, a, Human figure, 
Copelito, Nicaragua (height approximately 5 ft. (1.50 m.)). b. Human figure 
with "alter ego" motif, Nacasola, Costa Rica (height approximately 8 ft. 
(2.40 m.)). c, Human figure, El Silencio, Nicaragua (height approximately 5 ft. 
(1.50 m.)). d. Human figure from Copelito (height approximately 4 ft. 6 m. 
(1.37 m.)). e. Human figure, La Libertad, Nicaragua (height approximately 
5 ft. 4 in. (1.63 m.)). (After Richardson. 1940, figs. 39, 38; &, after Cabrera, 


region usually have a columnar base, often with a simple capital on which 
the figure rests. One common type, suggesting the "alter ego" or 
guardian-spirit motif, is a human figure seated or standing, carrying on 
the shoulders or over the head an alligator or other animal. Sometimes 
the head of the human figure is enclosed in the jaws of this animal. 
Characteristically, in the lake region this animal head is huge. Other 
types of human figures have gorgets on the breast or held in the hand, 
have tenons on top of the head, or have the lower part of the face covered 
by a mask suggesting the bill of a duck or other bird. Recently a unique 
type of columnar human statue with elaborate low relief carving has 
been reported from the western slopes of the Cordillera east of Lakes 
Managua and Nicaragua (Richardson, 1940). In a subsequent article 
(Stone, this volume, pp. 1/3-174) cruder human and animal statues (often 
with peg bases) and small groups of large stone balls from the Terraba 
Plain are described. In addition to the large statues and realistically 
carved human figures, a wide variety of elaborately carved jade and 
other stone celt-shaped pendants occurs. Large numbers of these have 
been recovered from graves on the Nicoya Peninsula (fig. 21). (See 
Hartman, 1901, 1907.) 

Regarding the stylistic and temporal affiliations, particularly of the 
larger statues, there has been much discussion but as yet little agreement 
(compare Lothrop, 1926 b, vol. 1, p. 93, with Richardson, 1940, pp. 412- 
416.) The styles are highly distinctive and seem of local or perhaps 
of more southerly origin, but whether certain types are ancient and 
underlie Maya horizons to the north, as Lothrop believes they do, or 
are late and possibly associated with post-Conquest materials, as Richard- 
son believes possible, must await systematic excavation and correlation 
in the area. Certainly the majority of larger statues in the Pacific region 
seem very distinct from Mayan, Nahuatl, or other northern forms and 
suggest South American rather than northern relationships. The stylistic 
relationship of the numerous petroglyphs carved on boulders with designs 
ranging from simple and realistic to complex and highly conventionalized 
figures also remains to be determined by more comprehensive study. 

Burial. — Burial methods in the Pacific region of Costa Rica and 
Nicaragua include the use of urns, cremation, and inhumation. Three 
types of urns were used : boot-shaped, circular, and boat-shaped. Both 
articulated and disarticulated bodies occur in urns as well as the ashes 
of cremated bodies. Urn burials are reported from many coastal sites 
(see Lothrop, 1926 b, vol. 1, p. 97). Inhumation, often in mounds, was 
practiced in all parts of the Nicaragua region and was almost universal 
in Nicoya. Preservation of osseous material is very bad, but where de- 
termination is possible secondary or bundle burials seem most common. 
An example of unmarked grave arrangements at the well-known site 
of Las Guacas on the Nicoya Peninsula is characteristic (fig. 18). At 



^ ^f^ 

I #■ 



Bagaces in Costa Rica and other more northerly sites graves are marked 
by four stone coUimns at the corners. This corresponds to a grave type 
found in the Chiriqui^ region. 

' Chiriqui is used here as the designation of an archeological area and does not refer to the 
Chiriqui tribe, which may or may not have left the archeological remains in the region. 
653334 — 48 10 


Ceramics.— According to Lothrop ( 1926 b, vol. 1, p. 105) , the ceramics 
of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, despite borrowing and blending on the 
borders, form a unit when compared to pottery from the Maya and Lenca 
areas to the north or the Chiriqui region to the south. Certainly the 
finer, particularly the polychrome, vessels from this region are distinctive, 
but recent work in Honduras and in southwestern Costa Rica indicates 
that the monochrome wares of Chiriqui, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and 
northwestern Honduras have many characteristics in common. Lothrop's 
detailed study (1926 b, vols. 1, 2) is largely based on museum collections, 
and recent field work indicates that here selection of finer, showier pieces 
has led to undue emphasis on polychrome and elaborate pieces as opposed 
to the much more abundant monochrome and simpler vessel types. This 
is pointed out by Stone (this volume), but it must be remembered 
that Stone is particularly referring to southwestern Costa Rica, whereas 
the most abundant polychrome pottery seems to come from Nicoya and 
western Nicaragua. Lothrop's analysis of Costa Rican and Nicaraguan 
pottery is still the most complete available ; hence, with the above warn- 
ings pointed out, it will be very briefly outlined here. For full description, 
analysis, and illustration, the reader is referred to Lothrop's beautifully 
illustrated volumes. 

The two main ceramic divisions in the Pacific region comprise the 
Polychrome and Monochrome Wares. The most important Polychrome 
group has been designated Nicoya Polychrome. (For a synoptic presenta- 
tion of ceramic groups, see fig. 19.) Nicoya Polychrome Ware has been 
found from the Nicoya Peninsula to Fonseca Bay but is especially typical 
of southwestern Nicaragua and northwestern Costa Rica. As is true 
of other groups, briefly mentioned here, it includes numerous styles and 
types which await more detailed classification. Common Nicoya Poly- 
chrome vessels are egg or pear-shaped jars, set on annular bases or tripod 
legs, and tripod bowls supported by animal-head legs. Animal effigy jars 
are also common. The finest vessels are elaborate and brightly painted. 

Painted designs are of various colors outlined in black. It is the per- 
haps unwarranted impression of the present writer that the use of a 
white or light background color is particularly striking on many pieces. 
Designs appear to be geometric and when analyzed usually prove to be 
conventionalized animals. Modeled vessels represent the turkey, macaw, 
jaguar, monkey, armadillo, and human head. Painted animals include 
man, jaguar, plumed serpent, 2-headed dragon, monkey, crab scorpion, 
and alligator. 

Under-slip Incised Ware is a second Polychrome group. The design 
here has been incised prior to application of the slip through which it is 
visible. In addition, this ware is decorated with painted designs in Nicoya 
Polychrome style. Motifs include the earth monster, feathered serpent 
and its derivatives, as well as simple geometric forms. In 1926 the known 































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a i 

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distribution of this ware extended from the Nicoya Peninsula to Lake 
Nicaragua, and similar types were reported from near Veracruz in Mexico. 
The third main Polychrome group is Luna Ware, reported from north- 
ern Guanacaste (Costa Rica) to north-central Nicaragua but appearing 
to center on the islands of Lake Nicaragua. A creamy-white slip on 
which patterns are painted in thin-line technique is its most striking 
characteristic. Bowls supported by annular bases or tripod legs are 
almost the only forms represented. Designs are almost entirely derived 
from those on Nicoya Polychrome Ware. Life motifs are more limited 
and until analyzed appear to be purely geometric. 

Intermediate between the Polychrome and Monochrome groups are 
three wares which are decorated chiefly by incising. The first, Managua 
ware, is limited in distribution almost entirely to the district between 
the two great Nicaraguan lakes. Its characteristic shape is a flaring 
rimmed bowl supported by solid tripod legs. Painted designs are either 
plumed serpent or apparently allied bird designs. The incised designs, 
often found on bowl floors, suggest Astec "pepper grater" bowls. Nan- 
daime Ware has a distinct red slip but is allied with the Polychrome 
Wares by its modeled and painted decorations. One Nandaime type 
has bulbous tripod legs and incised designs on the vessel floor. It is 
reported from central Guanacaste north along the Pacific probably to 
Fonseca Bay. Nicoya Black-line Ware seems to be found mainly in 
central Guanacaste. It may have a red or white slip, or no slip at all. 
Modeled forms are those of the Monochrome Ware series, and painted 
designs are either distinctive or are taken from the Polychrome group. 

The Monochrome Wares are distinctive in regard to shape, color, and 
methods of decoration. Of the seven in this group the first four — Choco- 
late, Black, Orange-Brown, and Red Wares — are named from the color 
of their slips. Their decorations are modeled and incised. White paint 
is often rubbed into the incised design. Incised designs are usually 
geometric though some life forms occur. Motifs are built up through 
combinations of geometric units. Effigy vessels are very common, and 
modeled heads and other features are applied to the outer walls in the 
same fashion as in the Polychrome Wares. Life forms include the human 
figure, alligator (and alligator "god"), great horned owl, monkey, turtle, 
jaguar, armadillo, and snake (rare). 

The other three Monochrome Wares are designated Palmar, Modeled 
Alligator, and Zapatero. Palmar Ware is a local ceramic group dis- 
tinguished by simple patterns made with a broad incised line. This design 
is emphasized by touches of red paint. Modeled Alligator Ware is made 
of coarse unslipped clay. There is usually a cover on which is a modeled 
alligator. The sides of the cover and the base are adorned with lumps 
representing alligator scutes. Zapatero Ware includes large burial urns 
and smaller related forms. It, too, is composed of coarse clay, but the 


outer surface is usually polished and often decorated with broad red 
lines and small modeled figures of distinctive types. 

Most if not all of the Pacific region ceramic wares are represented by 
a variety of other pottery artifacts, of which figurines and whistles are 
most abundant. These in many cases are synonymous. Nicoya Poly- 
chrome figurines are particularly interesting, since they represent a seated 
spread-legged type with "coft"ee-bean eyes." Lothrop takes issue with 
Spinden on the grounds that this apparently late type could hardly be 
directly related to those of the Archaic or Middle Cultures of the Valley 
of Mexico. Nicoya Polychrome figurines are mold-made. Those of 
other wares are apparently both of mold-made and hand-modeled types. 
Figurines seated on elaborate stools are an interesting form. Zapatero 
Ware figurine forms, notably a howling dog and an old person with a 
container on her back (Lothrop, 1926 b, vol. 2, p. 273), are obviously 
related to Ulua River specimens in Honduras (compare Strong, Kidder, 
and Paul, 1938, fig. 7, c, g, h, r). Pottery drums, clay rattles, miniature 
vessels, painted and incised spindle whorls and cylindrical stamps all 
occur. Clay labrets are abundant. Similar forms of jade are found 
on the Nicoya Peninsula, but the Chiriqui gold type appears to be lacking. 
Two possible snuff tubes are on record, but tobacco pipes seem to be 
lacking. Since we lack temporal or other significant classifications for 
these interesting ceramic forms they need only be mentioned here. For 
further details the reader is referred to Lothrop (1926 b, vol. 2, pp. 258- 
282) and Hartman (1907). 

In regard to the apparent great predominance of Monochrome Wares 
in the southern portion of the Pacific region, the reader is referred to 
a subsequent article (this volume, p. 187; also Stone, 1943, p. 80). As 
indicated previously, the center of distribution of most of the Polychrome 
Wares would seem to be the coastal and lake areas of Nicoya and western 
Nicaragua. Obviously, the decorative styles and techniques of many of 
these wares or types merge, but only many careful distributional and 
stratigraphic studies can hope to work out their exact spatial and temporal 
relationship one to another. Such studies still remain to be accomplished 
in the field. 

Metallurgy and jade work. — Work in metal does not seem to be 
abundant in the Pacific region. Goldwork is rare and when found appears 
to be of the simpler Chiriqui forms. Jade, on the other hand, if we 
use the term in its broadest sense, seems to have been used extensively, 
as indicated by the findings of Hartman and others on the Nicoya 
Peninsula. Lehmann (1910) among others, has suggested that in certain 
areas of Middle America predominant interest in jade or greenstone 
seems to preclude an interest in the working of gold. 

Stonework. — In regard to stonework, despite the account of flint quar- 
ries where the Indians of Subtiaba are said to have made arrowheads as 



late as 1890 (Lothrop, 1926 b, vol. 2, p. 435), very few chipped artifacts 
are recorded. Hartman (1907, pi. 32, No. 7) figures one large, stemmed 
point. The most elaborate of the ground-stone artifact types is the cere- 
monial metate from the Nicoya region (pi. 13, /, g). This is char- 
acterized by three legs in contrast to the 4-legged form of the Highland 
and Chiriqui regions. Hartman notes that the Nicoyan metates have 
either triangular or circular legs. Both types are elaborately decorated, 
the former with a projecting animal head and geometric patterns; the 
latter is usually larger and has animal decorative patterns. Manos, or 
grinding stones, are larger than the width of the metate. A stirrup-shaped 
grinding stone, with an ornamental handle, is an interesting form (fig. 
20, left). The full function of these very elaborate metates is unknown. 

Figure 20. — Costa Rican stonework. Left : Stirrup pestle. Right : Stone stand, Las 
Mercedes (diameter o£ stand, 6 in. (15.2 cm.)). (After Lothrop, 1926 b, figs. 
16 and 259.) 

Quite possibly they were used as seats. Simple legless forms were prob- 
ably used for ordinary household purposes on the Pacific, as seems to 
have been the case in the Highlands. The elaborate, legged metate type, 
representing a decorative peak for the Americas in this regard, occurs 
south in the Chiriqui region and north into central and eastern Honduras. 

Maces or club heads of stone are very typical in Nicoya graves (pi. 14, 
a, b). Hartman classifies these as having human, mammal, and bird 
heads; as representing two-legged monsters or alligators; or as round 
or star-shaped. The latter forms, including mammiform heads, have a 
wide distribution both to the north and south. 

Bark beaters of stone are of two types (pi. 14, d, e). One of these 
is a flat disk, grooved around the edges for attaching a handle, and ridged 
on the two flat surfaces. The other is cylindrical, with the enlarged end 
ridged and the smaller end serving as a handle. The disk type, as Lothrop 



[B.A.E. Bull. 143 

points out, is widely distributed, occurring in various parts of Mexico, 
Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Colombia. Both types occur in Honduras 
(Strong, 1935, pi. 16, k-m). In Mexico and in Honduras certain primitive 
tribes now use a hardwood club similar to the cylindrical stone form. 
Polished celts of amygdaloid and oval shape occur, and chipped double- 
bladed as well as T-shaped chipped axes are common (pi. 14, h). Mono- 
lithic, ground-stone, double-bladed axes (pi. 14, f, g) occur in the Nicara- 
guan lake region but seem more abundant on the east coast of that country. 
As previously mentioned, jade amulets, particularly celt-shaped pen- 
dants, are very characteristic of the Nicoya region. (See fig. 21; also 

Figure 21. — ^Jade pendants, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica. (After Lothrop, 1921.) 

Hartman, 1907.) Many of the smaller amulets have been sawed off from 
larger celts. Objects of true jadeite or nephrite are actually rare com- 
pared to those made of similar but softer minerals. Circular stone disks, 
possibly gorgets, are common grave finds (pi. 14, c). Identical 
objects of slate have been found in mounds in northeastern Honduras. 
Some stone atlatl pegs, similar to those from northwestern South America, 
are found in Nicoya (fig. 22). The elaboration and range of all these 

Figure 22. — Costa Rica stone spear-thrower pegs. (Length of center specimen, 
Zyi in. (5.4 cm.)). (After Hartman, 1907.) 


various carved stone artifact types in the Pacific region are well shown 
by Hartnian (1907). There is an obvious relationship between the de- 
signs on the smaller carved artifacts, on the larger stone statues, and 
on various pottery vessels, but, lacking true time perspective based on 
stratigraphy, the historic sequences remain to be worked out. 


For present purposes the term Highland region is used geographically 
in a somewhat larger and looser sense than the same term is employed 
by Lothrop. This was also true in regard to the Pacific region. (See 
sketch map, Lothrop, 1926 b, vol. 1, fig. 1, p. xxv). Lothrop distinguishes 
several subareas in the Highland region (1926 b, vol. 2, p. 285) and 
points out that the large area west of San Jose is still largely unknown. 
Logically, this would be the region archeologically transitional between 
the central and eastern Highlands and Nicoya. For the known High- 
land region he sees such a close relationship with prehistoric Chiriqui 
archeological materials as to suggest Chiriqui origins for the Highland 
culture later modified by northern influences. Since the Guetar peoples 
are historically the only known inhabitants of what Lothrop defines as 
the Highland region, he states that "the archeological remains must neces- 
sarily be attributed to them" (1926 b, vol. 2, p. 285). Such an inclusive 
statement is obviously open to criticism, since this could be true only 
if the Guetar had always ,been there or if no evidences of ancestral or 
earlier alien groups had ever been encountered. That no such temporal 
or ethnic distinctions have yet been made, in an area through which early 
migrations of necessity must have passed, clearly indicates how small 
our archeological knowledge of the region actually is. This being the 
case, we shall not attempt here to define either major or minor archeo- 
logical area boundaries but shall limit the discussion to those major 
characteristics which at present seem to characterize the Highland region 
as a whole and tend to distinguish it from the Pacific region. 

Surface structures. — As in the Pacific region, the most characteristic 
prehistoric structures of the Highlands are mounds. In the central valleys 
these are rubbish heaps of irregular shape, but on the Atlantic slope they 
are grouped so as to enclose courts or series of courts. An example of 
such aligned sti-uctures at Las Mercedes in Costa Rica is given here 
(fig. 26). The upper figure (fig. 26) shows smaller burial mounds (sur- 
face and cross section) located near the main group of structures. The lat- 
ter (fig. 26, lower) center around a circular mound 100 feet (30 m.) in 
diameter and 20 feet (6.5 m.) in height. This mound consisted of a 
circular wall of river boulders filled in with earth. Hartman found evi- 
dence that large stone statues found nearby had once stood on the upper 
rim of the central mound. In western Nicaragua statues usually occur 
around the base of mounds. European articles were also found in typical 


graves at this site, suggesting that at least part of it was late. In addition 
to Hartman, Alanson Skinner excavated at Las Mercedes (Lothrop, 
1926 b, vol. 2, pp. 451-467) and a large part of the Minor Keith col- 
lection was also secured here. (See Mason, 1946.) At several High- 
land sites occur circles of stones filled with debris ranging up to a 
diameter of 70 feet (21 m.). These are believed to be habitation mounds, 
although burials also occur in them (Lothrop, 1926 b, vol. 2, pi. ccii). 

Statues. — Large stone statues of Lake Nicaragua type are reported 
from the eastern shore of that lake, extending southward into the High- 
land region across the Rio San Juan as far as the vicinity of Puerto Limon. 
The "alter ego" motif, when it occurs in Costa Rica, is usually indicated 
by a small, complete animal or the head of the human figure (pi. 15, b), 
although large animal heads in this position do occur. (Compare fig. 
17, b, example from Guanacaste.) The stone statutes from the Chontales 
region east of Lake Nicaragua, previously mentioned, seem likewise to 
be characterized by small complete animal figures surmounting the human 
head. Chacmool type statues, characterized by a recumbent figure with 
a bowl inset in the stomach, occur rarely in western Nicaragua and across 
to the Atlantic coast of Costa Rica. Mexico is believed to be the center 
of distribution of the Chacmool type (Richardson, 1940, p. 403). 

Smaller, realistic human figures of stone appear to be the most abundant 
type of stone statuary (pi. 15, a-c). Available literature suggests that 
such figures are as characteristic of the Highland region as small, celt- 
shaped, human amulets are of certain parts of the Pacific region, but this 
may ,be illusory. If true it is of interest, since celt-shaped human amulets 
are rather common in northeast Honduras, whereas human figures of 
stone are not. This is curious, since in general the northern coastal cul- 
tures of Honduras seem to bear a closer resemblance to the Highland than 
to the Pacific cultures of Costa Rica and Nicaragua. 

Lothrop distinguishes three types of small human stone figures in the 
Highlands (pi. 15). The first consists of standing figures usually grasp- 
ing an object in each hand. Often a human head is held, sometimes 
with a head in one hand and an ax in the other. This general style is 
repeated in the goldwork (pi. 17, a). A second consists of a human head, 
usually about half life size, cut squarely across the neck. These may be 
larger replicas of the decapitated heads held by standing figures. Similar 
heads occur in pottery. The third is a seated human figure with the 
arms resting on the knees and placed across the body. Often such figures 
are blowing a whistle or eating. These are usually only a few inches 
high, but specimens 2 feet (60 cm.) in height have been found. They 
r(:semble the Mexican seated stone figures known as "Indios tristes." 
Stone statuary of all sizes in Costa Rica and equally objects made of 
gold, deserve far more comprehensive study than they have yet received. 



Mason's study of the stonework in the Minor Keith Collection improves 
our knowledge of stone sculpture in Costa Rica. 

Burial. — Rectangular stone cists were commonly used for disposal of 
the dead in the Highland region. Hartman distinguishes four main 
types. Characteristic of the Cartago Valley is a cist built entirely of 
flat stone slabs. In the vicinity of San Jose cists are usually oval in 
form, built of river boulders, and have no roof. On the Atlantic slope 
large cists occur in which river boulders are used for walls and floors, 
but flat stone slabs form the roof. The fourth type, found on the west- 
ern side of the Cartago Valley, consists of cists made of small, square-cut 
stone slabs used like bricks. Rectangular graves and globular stone cists 
are also reported by Hartman from the same mound at Santiago. These 
cist burials usually occur in mounds, or in stone circles apparently marking 
hut rings. Sometimes as many as three tiers of cists occur, with burials 

Figure 23. — Costa Rican carved stone slabs. (Specimen at left, 19 in. (48.4 cm.) 
wide.) (After Lothrop, 1926 b, fig. 179.) 


touching. This crowding apparently leads occasionally to odd-shaped 
cists. Where burials are very crowded and cists small, as in the Cartago 
Valley, it is presumed that secondary burials occur. Elsewhere, as on 
the Atlantic slope, extended burials are said to be more common. As 
was true in the Pacific region, preservation of bones is very bad, and 
the proportion of direct inhumations to cist burials cannot be determined. 

The majority of the objects described in sequel come from graves and 
cists or from their vicinity. This is also true of many of the small stone 
figures previously mentioned. Particularly characteristic of the Highland 
region are large, thin, elaborately carved stone slabs (fig. 23). Decora- 
tions on the sides of these are in low relief and often there are animals, 
such as monkeys or birds, carved in the round on the tops. Skinner 
found one of these in situ, standing erect in the middle of a cemetery 
at Anita Grande, and it is quite possible that these ornate slabs served 
as grave markers. Lothrop points out their stylistic similarity to deco- 
rated slabs from Manabi in Ecuador. The suggested resemblance to 
carved stonework from Chavin de Huantar in Peru does not seem to 
the present writer to be so close as in the case of the Manabi examples. 

Ceramics. — In regard to ceramics from the Highland region, Lothrop 
states (1926 b, vol. 2, p. 293) that in almost every ware examined 
one finds strong traces of the virile art of Chiriqui to the south. Certain 
Highland ware designations, such as Red-line, Lost Color, Maroon, 
Tripod, and Handled, have previously been used to designate Chiriqui 
pottery groups. The Highland wares so designated pertain to the same 
class of pottery as in Chiriqui, modified but slightly by a different locale. 
Lothrop regrets the lack of data from the intervening provinces of Tala- 
manca and Boruca in comparing the respective fictile and other arts of 
Highland Costa Rica and Chiriqui. However, this gap is here partly 
filled by Stone's paper (this volume, p. 170 f.), which in part deals with 
these areas. Stone corroborates the close relationship between Costa 
Rican and Chiriqui ceramics indicated by Lothrop. 

In the territory lying east of Nicoya and extending to the Atlantic 
slope, northern and southern extensions not being indicated, which 
Lothrop (1926 b. vol. 2, pp. 295-389) terms the Highland region, four 
main ceramic groups are distinguished. These include (1) Polychrome 
Wares, (2) Simple Painted Wares, (3) Monochrome Wares, and 
(4) Applique Wares. (See fig. 24.) The Highland Polychrome Ware 
represents a relatively small group, not comparable in amount or im- 
portance with Nicoya and other Polychrome Wares from the Pacific 
region. Lothrop further points out that the majority of Highland Poly- 
chrome designs and shapes are borrowed from the Pacific region, although 
considerable local modification exists. Elsewhere in the present volume 
(p. 172) Stone states that many of the painted pottery pieces from Boruca 
and Talamanca have forms characteristic of the Monochrome Wares. 


These observations again emphasize the fact that the elaborate Poly- 
chrome Wares seem to center not only in the Pacific region, but particu- 
larly in Nicoya and western Nicaragua. 

The Simple Painted Wares include Red-line, Yellow-line, White-line, 
Black-line, and Lost Color Wares. The first four are characterized by 
designs painted in the respective color upon a red or, rarely, a cream slip. 
Geometric patterns are common, some of these being derived from the 
Chiriqui alligator motif. A tripod bowl supported by animal heads is 
the most distinctive form, but each ware contains various forms apparently 
taken over from the Applique Wares. Lost Color, or Negative Painted, 
Ware is decorated with light designs against a darker background. The 
usual wax process appears to have been employed on this type of vessel. 
Designs are geometric, curvilinear, and zoomorphic. Lost Color Ware 
is not abundant in the Highland region and appears to be little more 
than a specialized extension of a common Chiriqui technique. As is true 
of all Highland Wares, its relative age is undetermined, but its forms 
are generally those of the above. 

There are five subdivisions of Highland Monochrome Wares according 
to Lothrop. These are: Maroon Incised (related to Lost Color Ware 
and marked by incised patterns on vessels with a maroon slip), Choco- 
late (apparently derived from its Pacific region prototype), Red-lip (lip 
red with unslipped band below on which painted, modeled, or incised 
decoration occurs; related to Nicoya Black-line group), and Red, char- 
acterized by a red slip, its forms falling into two divisions, one connected 
with the Pacific region, the other differing from Stone Cist Ware only 
in clay and slip. 

The four Applique Wares are apparently the most typical and abundant 
of the Highland region. These are the Curridabat, Tripod, Stone Cist, 
and Handled Wares. As a rule, the Applique Ware vessels are of coarse, 
gritty paste, usually burnished rather than slipped. Decoration consists 
primarily of the application of buttons or ribbons of clay to the outside 
of the vessel, but this does not exclude painting, incising, and modeling. 
All four types of decoration sometimes occur on the same vessel and, in 
certain subtypes, applique decoration is absent. The dividing line be- 
tween these wares is often obscure, and they blend into one another in no 
apparent succession. The dividing line between Stone Cist and Handled 
Wares is particularly obscure. 

There are two groups of Curridabat Ware; one is distinguished by 
one or more small ridges encircling the neck or shoulder ; the other con- 
sists of smaller vessels with painted instead of raised designs. Decoration 
is applique (most common; apparently representing alligator scutes), 
modeled, incised, and painted. All the forms are simple. In regard to 
subtypes, occasional provenience, and wider distributions the reader is 
referred to Lothrop (1926 b, vol. 2, pp. 332-355). 


Tripod Ware consists of vessels which are set on tall tripod legs and 
either represent animals or have modeled animals upon them. The vessels 
are often elaborately decorated and tend toward the grotesque. Modeling 
is very common, but a few painted forms occur. At Curridabat, in Costa 
Rica, the type site for ware of that name, Hartman (1907) found broken 
Tripod Ware vessels at depths of 2 to 4 feet (0.6 to 1.2 m.) underground, 
and at 4 to 7 feet (1.2 to 2.1 m.) he encountered numerous upright Cur- 
ridabat jars. He observes that these two wares formed 90 percent of the 
pottery at this site. Tripod Ware has a wide distribution marked by local 
variations. It is particularly characteristic of northeastern Honduras. 

Stone Cist Ware is composed of globular jars, often set on short tripod 
legs and decorated with applique animal forms, ribbons (often punctured), 
or buttons. Modeled forms include the alligator, man, tree, frog, and snake. 
The paste is sandy ; the color normally brick red ; burnishing is more com- 
mon than slipping; and specimens are very friable. This general type is 
also widely distributed. It is very characteristic of northeastern Honduras. 

Handled Ware is similar in composition to the above but is less elabo- 
rately, one might say grotesquely, decorated. Handles are large and in- 
clude single, paired vertical, and paired horizontal forms. This ware is 
closely related to its Chiriqui name-giver. As Lothrop indicates, the basis 
of classification of this ware, like many of the others, is not entirely sat- 
isfactory and awaits revision based on more extensive, as well as intensive 
stratigraphic, excavations. 

Like the Pacific, the Highland region has various ceramic forms which 
do not fit into present pottery classifications. It also has a number of pot- 
tery objects other than vessels. Hollow cylindrical pot stands, sometimes 
with Atlantean supports, are common. Often the upper ring is surmounted 
by small faces (fig. 20, right). These objects of either pottery or stone 
were presumably used to support round-bottomed vessels which are the 
usual type. Incense burners of Red Ware with modeled handles are simi- 
lar to Honduran and Mexican forms. The handles often represent an 
alligator or serpent. Large pottery heads of several types, similar to those 
in stone, also occur. Nearly all on record came from the Las Mercedes 
district. Figurines are much less common than in the Pacific region. 
Human figures are most common ; standing figures in costume and pensive 
figures seated on stools occur. A common type with painted geometric 
designs belongs to the class of Chiriqui Alligator Ware. These are usually 
seated, sometimes on stools, and usually have spread legs. Canoe- or boat- 
shaped vessels containing human paddlers are a distinctive type. In addi- 
tion, dogs, jaguars, .birds, and composite or double animals are represented. 
Whistles, usually human or animalistic in form, pertain to various ceramic 
wares. Rattles occur in the form of tripod legs, incense-burner handles, 
or even sealed pots. Gourd-form rattles are represented. Pottery drums 
are less common than in the Pacific region but do occur. Some of these 






















are of Highland Polychrome Ware. Cylindrical pottery stamps are also 
found in the Highlands. 

Metallurgy. — ^Though excellent examples of jade or allied stone carving 
have been found in the Highland region graves, goldwork is apparently 
more common. Most of this exquisitely worked material has been dug up 
by treasure hunters, and much of it has been melted down. However, 
large collections are to be found in Costa Rican and other museums. Un- 
fortunately, no comprehensive studies of Costa Rican goldwork are avail- 
able and little can be said about it here. Many forms in goldwork are the 
same as those in Highland ceramics or in stonework. The techniques 
employed seem generally to be the same as those used in the Chiriqui area. 
Human figures holding trophy heads or other objects, mammals, birds, alli- 
gators, frogs, and bells are all represented. (See pi. 17, a.) The entire 
problem of metalwork in Costa Rica and the rest of Central America calls 
for much more study than it has yet received. On general grounds, how- 
ever, we can state that the Highland region links up with the Chiriqui 
area in yielding considerable amounts of stylistically similar goldwork. 
The Pacific region, however, with the possible exception of the Boruca 
region, seems largely to lack metalwork, or to yield merely a few simple 
and presumably borrowed forms. 

Stonework. — Considering work in stone, again we have no data on 
chipping techniques, but various ground-stone objects are excellently made. 
The Highland metate differs from the Nicoya form in being oblong instead 
of rectangular and having three legs instead of four. It also has a ridge 
around the edge of the grinding plate necessitating a short handstone or 
mano. Often the Highland metate is formed like an animal, particularly 
the jaguar, having the head at one end and the tail curled and attached 
to a leg to form a handle (fig. 25). It is so closely related in form and 
style to the metate of the Chiriqui area that there are no clear rules to 
distinguish between the two. As in Nicoya, very elaborate forms occur 
(pi. 15, d), complex in execution and rich in forgotten mythological sym- 

FiGURE 25. — Metate from Cartago, Costa Rica. (After Lothrop, 1926 b, fig. 181.) 


boHsm. The animal-form metate occurs as far south as Ecuador and is 
rather common in northeastern Honduras. 

In the Highlands, as in the Pacific region, it is impossible to distinguish 
positively between certain elaborate mortuary metates and probable seats 
or stools. However, one Highland form definitely suggests a seat. This 
type consists of a round plate encircled by a ridge and supported on a tall, 
openwork pedestal. Decoration consists of pierced slits, triangles, 
diamonds, or Atlantean figures. Similar forms occur in pottery and wood 
which cannot be successfully used as a grinding surface ; hence the use of 
such objects for seats seems probable. This pedestal-type seat, or stand, 
is distributed throughout the Highland and Chiriqui regions. A similar 
form without the plate is identical with the pot stands made of pottery and 
apparently performed the same function. Stone bowls, some of which 
resemble pottery forms and are elaborately carved, also occur in the High- 
land region. The polished ax of the Highland region is usually diamond- 
shaped in cross section, and this type is common also in the Chiriqui region. 
Another type is chipped and not polished. A double-bitted, chipped ax 
form occurs, but the monolithic ax is not reported. 


This, the third region mentioned in the present brief archeological 
survey of Costa Rica and Nicaragua, contains topographic variations (see 
Introduction, p. 121) but may be considered as generally coterminous with 
part of the Atlantic Plain and all the Nicaraguan Lowland. It comprises 
a huge triangular, area extending from the Talamanca Plain in Costa Rica 
north along the Caribbean into Honduras and, widening rapidly to the 
northwest, to the eastern base of the Cordillera in northern Costa Rica 
and central Nicaragua. This vast jungle-covered area, extending from 
rolling foothills eastward to the swampy Mosquito coast, is not very well 
known from the geographic and is almost unknown from the archeological 
standpoint. Despite the fact that the region includes over half of the 
combined area of Costa Rica and Nicaragua and forms an essential ar- 
cheological link between Honduras and the Highland region on the south 
and the Pacific region on the west, very little can be said at present con- 
cerning its archeology. For this reason only a brief summary of previ- 
ously published materials (Strong, 1935, pp. 166-167) is given here. 

Le Baron gives a plan of a small ceremonial site on the Prinzapolca 
River consisting of three rude monoliths set up to form a triangle, which 
is paved with rocks. One monolith had a crude face incised at the top 
and others had simple circular or geometric petroglyphs. No artifacts 
were found. On the Rama River, which enters the Caribbean near Mon- 
key Point, Spinden (1925) notes the occurrence of small mounds con- 
taining abundant pottery. Painted and modeled ware, including tripod 
bowls, figurines, whistles, etc., were found here. Cookra Hill, near the 



south end of Pearl Lagoon, formerly had ancient graves from which gold 
amulets, a marble mace head of Nicoyan type, abundant pottery, and other 
artifacts have been removed. Near Bluefields occur large and interesting 


'V ' •.'•v,-^i,\^iit":*-'i ' 

■'//.y./- ■■:,;/. .-'^'yy' 




Figure 26. — Burial mound and general map of Las Mercedes, Costa Rica. (After 

Hartman, 1901.) 


shell heaps. Pottery from these is usually unslipped but is elaborately 
modeled. One type, with tripod feet decorated with faces and containing 
rattles, suggests a local variant of Costa Rican pottery (Tripod Ware). 
A small stone figure of a man and two interesting types of monolithic 
axes, figured by Lothrop (see pi. 14, /, g), come from here. Spinden 
calls attention to stone bowls with projecting heads, tripod supports, and 
a band of interlaced decoration, which come from this area. (See Hon- 
duras, pi. 1, top.) The well-made metates with animal heads from east- 
ern Nicaragua form a link between (Highland) Costa Rica and northern 
Honduras. Spinden also states that small pots with plastic decoration 
and gold figurines are said to have been found in the Pis Pis mining dis- 
trict. He observed many elaborate petroglyphs near falls and rapids on 
these eastern rivers. At the junction of the Yasica and Tuma Rivers, 
within the wet belt and in the vicinity of mounds, he found two carvings 
of the Lake Nicaragua type. One of these depicted a man with an alli- 
gator clinging to his back. 

From the surveys made by Spinden it thus appears that eastern Nica- 
ragua forms a cultural link between the Highland region of Costa Rica 
to the south, and the Bay Islands and the Honduran coast to the north. 
Too little is yet on record, however, to attempt a more detailed comparison 
of types. 


Exact correlations between archeological manifestations and docu- 
mented historic sites or ruins formerly occupied by specific tribes are as 
yet unknown in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Whether available documen- 
tation and adequate archeological remains at historic sites exist cannot 
be determined until more serious attempts in that direction have been 
made. However, western Nicaragua, particularly the lake region, as well 
as various parts of Costa Rica seems very promising in this regard. This 
is indicated by the fact that rather close territorial correlations have al- 
ready been demonstrated, particularly by Lothrop, between certain 
ceramic wares and the historic territories of certain distinct linguistic and 
ethnic groups. Such generalized correlations should not be pushed too 
far, but when objectively arrived at they do have rather strong inferen- 
tial value. Needless to say, these will be greatly strengthened when ( 1 ) 
specific historic sites have been carefully worked and (2) when demon- 
strable sequence or time order can be established. A simpliste "one to 
one" correlation between the ethnic group known to have occupied a 
specific region at the time of the Conquest and all, or a great majority, 
of the archeological remains in that region must always be subject to sus- 
picion. This is particularly true in the more favorable parts of an isthmian 
area where both linguistic distributions and history indicate that numerous 
migrations have occurred. However, until painstaking excavation brings 

Plate 13.— Stone statue and seats. Central America, a, b, d, e, From Zapatero 
Island, Nicaragua. (After Bovallius, 1886, and Squier, 1852.) c, Comitdn, 
Mexico. (After Seler, 1901.) /, g, From Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica. 
(After Holmes, 1908.) 


Plate 14. — Stone artifacts from Costa Rica and Nicaragua, a, b, Club heads, 
Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; c, disk, Costa Rica; d, e, bark beaters, Fila- 
delfia, Costa Rica; f-h, axes. (Length of/, 12.5 in. (31.5 cm.); length of g, 8 
in. (20.2cm.);heightof /i, Tin. (17.8 cm.).) (After Lothrop, 1926 b, pis. 10-12.) 



Plate 15. — Stone carvings, Costa Rica, a, c, Figures from Las Mercedes. 
(Respective heights, 14 and 10.5 in. (35.5 and 26.5 cm.).) b, Statue, d, 
Ceremonial metate, San Isidro de Guadaloupe. (Lengtli of top 24.5 in. 
(62.5 cm.).) (After Lothrop, 1926 b, pis. 205, 138, and 140.) 

j'& % r 

Plate 16. — Nicoya Polychrome, Costa Rica and Nicaragua, a, Macaw effigy 
jar, Bolson, Costa Rica. (Height, 11.5 in. (29.2 cm.).) b. From Filadelfia, 
Costa Rica. (Height, 9 in. (23 cm.).) c, From Ometepe Island, Nicaragua. 
(Diameter, 9 in. (23 cm.).) d, Bowl interior, crab motif in light red, dark 
red, orange, and black on white. (Diameter, 5.5 in. (14 cm.).) e, Plmned 
serpent motif jar, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica, in red and black on yellow. 
(Height, 10.5 in. (26.7 cm.).) /, Plumed serpent decoration from tripod 
interior, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica, in red and black on orange. (Diam- 
eter, 5.5 in. (14 cm.).) (After Lothrop, 1926 b, pis. 14, 23, 30, 71, 46 and 47.) 






^^''^^^? / Sa^ 


^^C P 


c ^ 



B #* 




I'l M 


%#. '^' 


\f 1' 

. W 

'^ ^ 


r^ S 


Plate 17. — Central American goldwork and pottery, a, Gold figurines. Costa 
Rica; h, Nandaime ware, Nicaragua; c, Nicoya Black-Line ware, Costa Rica; 
d, Under-Slip Incised ware, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica. (Height, 9 in. 
(23 cm.).) e, Plumbate ware, Ulua Valley, Honduras. (Height 7 in. (18 
cm.).) (After Lothrop, 1926 b, pis. 78, 97, 99, 84, and 20.) 

Plate 18. — Central American pottery types, a, b, Black-Line ware, Las Mercedes 
and Anita Grande, Costa Rica. (Diameters, approximately 9 and 6 in. (23 
and 15 cm.).) c, Curridabat ware, Costa Rica. (Diameter, approximately 
4 in. (10 cm.).) d, Luna ware, Nicaragua. (Width, 4.5 in. (11.4 cm.).) 
e, Lost-Color pattern, Las Mercedes. /, Yellow-Line ware. Las Mercedes. 
g, Red-Line ware. Las Mercedes. (Diameter, 6.5 in. (16.5 cm.).) h, Tripod 
ware, Las Mercedes. (Height, approximately 6 in. (15.2 cm.).) i, Highland 
Polychrome ware, Costa Rica. (Height, 4.5 in. (11.4 cm.).) (After Lothrop, 
1926 b, pis. 159, 171, fig. 93, pis. 161, 157, fig. 192, pis. 175, 143.) 


true time perspective, the establishment of such gross correlations is ax 
least a promising first step. 

The most striking of these correlations is that existing between the dis- 
tribution of Nicoya Polychrome Wares and peoples of Chorotegan (the 
Chiapanecan of Thomas and Swanton, 1911) and Nahuatl speech. Ter- 
ritorially this double distribution includes the Peninsula of Nicoya, the 
Isthmus of Rivas, the west coast of Nicaragua, the islands of Lake Nica- 
ragua, and parts of southern Salvador, As Lothrop (1926 b, vols. 1, 2) 
demonstrates in considerable detail, Nicoya Polychrome pottery is not 
only the most elaborate painted ware in Costa Rica and Nicaragua but also 
is characterized by design and technical elements of older Mayan and later 
Mexican origin. The presence of what he considers to be older Mayan 
motifs in Nicoya Polychrome leads him to the belief that the Chorotegan 
groups, longer in residence, were responsible for the bulk of this ceramic 
ware, whereas the later Nicarao and other Nahautl (Mexican) peoples 
adopted it and introduced later northern motifs into Nicoya Polychrome 
but did not develop a distinguishable subtype of their own. Since linguistic 
considerations indicate northern origins for both Chorotegan and Nahuatl 
peoples, while history and legend give the Chorotegan temporal priority in 
this region, Lothrop's correlation agrees with the available evidence. 

On similar distributional and territorial grounds, Chocolate Ware, 
Black Ware, Orange-Brown Ware, perhaps Red Ware, and Alligator 
Ware may also be largely assigned to the Chorotegan peoples. Another 
ware, Managua, is limited in shape and design and has been found almost 
entirely within the boundaries of one Chorotegan tribe, the Mangue. 
Nandaime Ware has been found from Guanacaste in Costa Rica to 
Nandaime in Nicaragua and probably extends north to Fonseca Bay. Be- 
cause this distribution includes the Subtiaba as well as the Chorotegans, 
Lothrop believes Nandaime Ware was made by people of both linguistic 
groups. Similar dual authorship is suggested by Lehmann (1910) and 
Lothrop in regard to Nicoya Blackline Ware, since it commonly occurs at 
sites in Coribici (Chibchan) territory and also in Orotina {Chorotegan) 
territory as well. East of the Nicaraguan lakes the territory of the Ulvan 
tribes and the known distribution of Luna and Zapatero Wares more or 
less coincide. Luna Ware, through its association with large boot-shaped 
burial urns in which were found post-Caucasian objects, is apparently 
protohistoric. According to Lothrop, this coincidence between Ulvan oc- 
cupation and the above wares is strong for Luna Ware, but he states that 
Zapatero Ware cannot be so definitely delimited. 

All the foregoing ceramic and tribal correlations refer to the Pacific 
region. In regard to the Highland region we have previously (p. 131) 
quoted and criticized Lothrop's somewhat wholesale assignment of all the 
known archeological materials to the historic Guetar {Chibchan). Stone 

653334 — 48 11 


(1943, p. 75) points out some of the difficulties encountered in assigning 
prehistoric remains to specific historic tribes in Costa Rica, However, the 
known historic occupation of the entire southern and eastern Highland 
region by tribes pertaining to the Chibchan linguistic stock does establish 
at least a priority in their favor. The marked concentration of large statues 
of so-called "Chorotegan type" within the area mainly occupied by Choro- 
tegan peoples, particularly in the Nicaraguan lake region, offers some 
justification for this nominal linkage. As previously stressed, however, 
the styles of these large monuments are so variable and their present dis- 
tribution and relative age are so uncertain that this problem must be left 
open. Certainly the concentration of jade (greenstone) work on amulets, 
etc., in Nicoya and adjacent areas historically occupied by the Orotina 
and other Chorotegan, as well as Mexican, peoples suggests a partial 
correlation. Similarly, the fact that goldwork is equally characteristic in 
the Highland region and in Chiriqui, where only Chibchan tribes are known 
to have lived in historic times, tends to link goldworking with peoples of 
this linguistic stock, the major affiliations of which are with northern South 
America. All the above correlations have some degree of probability and 
indicate very important leads. However, the final assignment of technical 
trends, ceramic wares, monumental styles, and all other archeological com- 
plexes in Costa Rica and Nicaragua to historic tribes, prehistoric groups, 
and relative temporal position in both the Pacific and Highland regions 
must await far more careful and extensive excavation work than either of 
these areas has yet received. As for the Eastern Coastal Plain, it still re- 
mains an almost complete archeological terra incognita. 


Hartman, 1901, 1907; Johnson, 1940; Kidder (see Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938) ; 
Le Baron, 1912 ; Lehmann, 1910 ; Lines, 1938 b ; Lothrop, 1926 b ; Mason, 1945 ; Paul 
(see Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938) ; Richardson, 1940 ; Spinden, 1925 ; Stone, 1943 ; 
Strong, 1935; Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938; Swanton (see Thomas and Swanton, 
1911) ; Thomas and Swanton, 1911. 


By Samuel K. Lothrop 


For many years the primitive inhabitants of Panama were known only 
through archeological remains discovered in the Province of Chiriqui, 
and it was generally supposed that a more or less uniform culture extended 
throughout the Isthmian region. Since 1930, however, evidence has come 
to light which radically changes this picture, and at present we can dis- 
tinguish four or more cultures in Panama. In spite of the small area they 
occupied, each culture was radically distinct from the others, although 
features were sometimes borrowed, as might be expected among neighbors. 
From continental South America to the west the principal culture areas are 
named Darien, Code, Veraguas, and Chiriqui (map 4). Several regions 
in Panama are archeologically still unknown, and it is definitely possible 
that other cultures may be discovered. 

The cultural diversity disclosed by Panamanian archeology is in accord 
with early historical accounts. These indicate that a fairly uniform speech, 
physical type, material culture, and social organization once extended 
throughout Darien from South America to a point beyond the Canal. The 
town of Chame, which still exists, is given as the limit of Darien culture 
in the 16th century. From Chame to the west both speech and physical 
type varied greatly. It is constantly stated in Spanish documents that 
neighboring aboriginal settlements could communicate with each other only 
through interpreters. Unfortunately, no ancient vocabularies have come 
down to us, and so we cannot know the extent of linguistic variation. To- 
day the few surviving Indians speak Guaymi, a Chibchan dialect. 

Regarding physical type, various 16th-century observers point out that 
there was great variation in skin color and in stature. At least two ac- 
counts exist of the natives of Escoria, who were both taller and more 
heavily bearded than the Spaniards. We can say nothing about the beards, 
but excavations in Code have revealed the presence of individuals who 
must have stood over 6 feet (1.9 m.) in life. 

A suggestion of cultural diversity with wide implications arises from 
the description of a native ball court (juego de pelota). This definitely 
was not of the Mexican or Central American type, for it was compared 




[B.A.E. BuU. 143 


to the Arawak ball courts seen by the Spaniards in the West Indies, which 
differ radically from those of the mainland. 

Any discussion of Panama must consider the question of antiquity, be- 
cause Panama is the most obvious route to South America and because 
man must have passed through the isthmian region, even if he did not 
permanently settle there, in the remote past. It has been suggested that 
a crudely chipped celt found by Linne on the Atlantic coast may be of 
great antiquity. This seems improbable, because chipped celts or chipped 
and partly polished celts were manufactured both in Panama and Costa 
Rica until the time of the Spanish Conquest. It is fair to state, therefore, 
that no proved trace of man in the far past has yet been found in Panama 
or, in fact, nearer to Panama than Nicaragua. 

The cultures to be described may be regarded as historic ; that is to say, 
they were flourishing when the Spaniards came. Evidence obtained from 
excavations in Code suggests that Code culture was blooming at least 
two centuries before the Conquest. The complexity of the oldest known 
remains, dating only from the early 14th century, is such that a fairly 
long past must be postulated. This is especially true of the intricate sym- 
bolism shown in pottery designs. The prototypes, however, remain to 
be found. 


The term Darien applies geographically to the portion of Panama 
lying between the Canal and continental South America. Archeological 
research in this area commenced in 1522 when Gonzalo Fernandez de 
Oviedo y Valdes, later the royal historian, opened "certain sepulchers 
which were inside a hut," with the hope of finding gold. Present knowl- 
edge of archeological remains, however, is based largely on the work of 
S. Linne (1929), who conducted excavations on both coasts of the 

The Darien first seen by the Spanish explorers was very diflFerent from 
the Darien that exists today. Owing to advanced agricultural practices, 
much of the now-prevalent jungle evidently had been cut down. Descrip- 
tions exist of huge and beautiful houses, giant canoes inlaid with mother- 
of-pearl — in short, a scale of material culture much more advanced than 
the surviving archeological remains indicate. A suggestion of ancient 
cultural complexity, however, comes from the mythology and ritual of 
the present Cuna Indians, ably studied by Nordenskiold (1938), Ruben 
Nele, and Perez Kantule. (See also, this volume, p. 257.) 

Burial custom. — History and archeology alike indicate considerable 
variety in the burial customs of Darien. Oviedo y Valdes, (1851-55), 
the best historical authority, states that burial was a rite reserved for the 
nobility as well as for such wives, retainers, and captives as were selected 
to accompany their lords to another world. The living destined for the 


grave either took poison voluntarily, were buried alive while stupified by 
intoxication, or were killed in some unspecified manner. Bodies of the 
common people were abandoned to the beasts and birds. 

In Darien it was customary among certain ruling families to bury the 
wives and servants in the ground but to desiccate and preserve the body 
of the chief. To this end the body was dried out by means of surround- 
ing fires. It then was disposed of in one of two ways. Some families 
maintained a special house or room where their ancestors were seated in 
order along the walls. In other instances the bodies were wrapped in 
mantles and placed in hammocks. Linne (1929) points out that the 
Cueva today place the dead in hammocks slung in pits, which subse- 
quently are filled with earth, and he has published a map showing the dis- 
tribution of various types of mummification. 

Linne's excavations revealed the presence of secondary urn burials on 
the Atlantic coast of Darien and of inhumations in deep graves on the 

Ceramics. — The pottery in general is coarse. Decoration consists of 
modeling, filleting, and incising (pi. 19, c-e). Tall annular bases are 
typical. Sufficient material is not available for close comparisons, but 
the pottery may be described as definitely Isthmian in character with 
stylistic links both to the south and north. 

On the Pearl Islands, Linne discovered typical Darien pottery asso- 
ciated with round house sites and also polychrome pottery of Code style 
associated with rectangular house sites. He demonstrated by microscopic 
studies that both were manufactured locally and suggested that the poly- 
chrome ware was produced by Indians transferred from the mainland 
after the Conquest. Stratigraphic studies in Code endorse this opinion. 
Stone objects. — Objects of stone are not common in Darien. The 
elaborate metates typical of western Panama have not been found east of 
the Canal, but small mortars occur (pi. 20, h). Celts usually are small 
and are polished (pi. 20, a). 


The aboriginal culture which takes its name from the Province of Code 
occupies the Pacific watershed of Panama to the southwest of the Canal. 
It is found chiefly in Code Province and the adjacent Asuero Peninsula, 
including the Provinces of Herrera and Los Santos. This well-watered 
region in large part today consists of open plains and is dedicated to cattle 
raising, but to the south and west the land is hilly and increasingly more 
rugged. To the north lies the little-known Cordillera and the continental 
divide. Archeological remains in the area here outlined are better under- 
stood from a technical point of view than are those from other parts of 
Panama because detailed records of excavation have been published and 
because much material with accurately recorded provenience exists. 


The Spaniards first reached Code and the Asuero Peninsula in 1515 
and continually raided it for several years thereafter because the natives 
possessed gold in greater quantity than hitherto had been encountered in 
the New World. The discovery of even greater wealth in Mexico and 
western South America, however, soon attracted the stream of adven- 
turers to those regions, leaving this part of Panama in an isolated 
desuetude from which it is only today emerging. The few surviving In- 
dians now live in the high mountains. 

No remains exist today above ground of the old Indian settlements ex- 
cept occasional lines of stone columns, the function of which is still un- 
known. Refuse beds, however, have been disclosed in the banks of rivers 
to indicate the sites of primitive villages. Many of these contain burials 
accompanied by funeral furniture in great quantity. 

Burial customs. — Burial in the ground, as in Darien (q.v.), was a 
right confined to chiefs, the nobility, and their wives and retainers. In 
1519 the Spaniards discovered and described the body of the Cacique 
Parita prepared for burial in sumptuous array, including gold ornaments 
which weighed 355 pounds. 

The most famous burial ground, today known as Sitio Conte, is situated 
on the Rio Grande de Code. Here scores of graves have been opened 
and carefully plotted and their contents recorded. These graves are of 
several types, one of which evidently represents the burial of chiefs. In 
these, the main occupant was seated on a stone slab, on which his body 
seemed to have been desiccated by fire, surrounded by the extended bodies 
of his retainers (fig. 27). Above and around the bodies, funeral offerings 
and jewelry were piled in great abundance. Over 200 pottery vessels 
were found in several graves. 

Excavation of these graves presented a difficult technical problem. In 
many cases the funeral offerings were several layers deep and had been 
trampled into a compacted mass before the grave was closed. At times 
graves were reopened and the contents pushed aside to make room for 
more bodies. Frequently, in digging a grave, an older burial was en- 
countered. This might be robbed for the benefit of the new burial or it 
might be cut through and the contents scattered, and so the deeper burial 
actually is the more recent. 

The contents of the grave are so complex that we can merely list the 
more frequently found types of objects. Tools and implements include 
metates, sharpening and grinding stones, polishing stones, crudely chipped 
stone blades, bone points, stingray points, bone spear throwers, stone 
shaft straighteners, drills, mirrors, and chisels of gold or stone. Two 
types of celts are characteristic of the locality. One is pear-shaped with 
a polished blade and roughly chipped poll (fig. 28). The other is wedge- 
shaped and polished all over (pi. 20, c). Stone artifacts with the excep- 
tion of jewelry are crudely made. 



Figure 27.-Cocle grave plan. Skeleton 12. the owner of the grave, has fallen from 
a seated position, (After Lothrop. 1937. fig. 31.) 


Vol. 4] 



Figure 28. — Code stone ax (^ actual size). (After Lothrop, 1937, fig. 53.) 

Ceramics. — Pottery, found in abundance, is complex in character, for 
not only are there many distinct wares, but the designs are intricate and 
vary with period (figs. 29-36). Several ceramic shapes are typical only 
of Code. Among these are slightly curved plates about 12 inches (30 
cm.) in diameter, deeper and smaller bowls with flaring walls, and carafes 
with globular or angular bodies and tall, flaring necks. Occasionally ves- 
sels are decorated with filleting or incising and suggest the pottery of 
Chiriqui or Darien, but the vast majority of vessels are purely local in 
character. Most of the pottery was coated with varnish, perhaps copal, 
which disappears when re-exposed to the air and light. 

The outstanding pottery ware of Code is the polychrome (figs. 30-35). 
Colors include black, brown, dark red, light red, purple (which sometimes 
verges on blue or gray), and green. The designs typically depict various 
monstrous beasts which combine aspects of several animals. Attempts at 
naturalism either in painting or modeling are rare. Also typical are beauti- 
fully executed scroll patterns, of which there are a bewildering number. 

Ornaments. — Jewelry and ornaments are scarcely less complex than 
the pottery. We may mention headbands and hats of gold. Shirts were 
adorned with golden disks with beaten designs (pi. 20, d), running up to 
12 inches (30 cm.) in diameter, or with sets of smaller golden disks. In 





^B^Boaaai PURPLE 

Figure 29. — Color key for Code pottery. 



Figure 30. — Early Polychrome, Code. Tray showing crocodile-headed bird motifs 
(approximately % actual size). (After Lothrop, 1942, fig. 7.) 

Figure 31. — An Early Polychrome spouted effigy vessel, Code. (Approximately 
Yi actual size). (After Lothrop, 1942, fig. 123.) 

Vol. 4] 



c d 

Figure 32. — Early Polychrome, Code. Plate interiors, a, Herringbone Pattern 
{}/% actual size) ; h, crocodile-headed bird pattern (%6 actual size) ; c, conven- 
tionalized bird and turtle motifs (%o actual size) ; d, "S" scrolls (He actual size). 
(After Lothrop, 1942, figs. 15, 83, 50, 33.) 



Figure 33.— Early polychrome, Code. (Approximate sizes : 54. ?4. 54. H, and 
i^). (After Lothrop, 1942, figs. 108, 11, 116, and 98.) 

Vol. 4] 



Figure 34. — ^Late Polychrome, Code. Fish and claw motifs from a pedestal plat- 
(J4 actual size). (After Lothrop, 1942, fig. 144.) 



[B.A.B. Bull. X43 

Figure 35 

-Late Polychrome, Code. (Approximate sizes: carafes, 
%). (After Lothrop, 1942, figs. 10, 176, and 174.) 


Vol. 4] 



Figure 36. — Miscellaneous Code pottery types, a, Black-line geometric ware 
(approximately Ys actual size) ; b, c, red-line bowls (approximately % actual 
size) ; d, Late smoked ware (approximately % actual size). (After Lothrop, 
1942, figs. 237, 251, and 332.) 

the nose, rings of gold, serpentine, or opal were inserted (fig. 37, h, c). 
Ears were decorated either with long rods of gold or stone or with large 
spoolHke ornaments of gold (fig. 38; pi. 20, ^). Necklaces were of hollow 
golden beads (one necklace is 3 m. (10 feet) in circumference) or of 
boars' tusks, sharks' teeth, dogs' teeth, serpentine, agate, shell, or bone. 
For fingers there were gold rings, and for wrists bracelets of gold, agate, 
or bone. Sometimes the forearms were encased in cuffs of gold, and there 
were golden greaves for the legs. There are many forms of pendants, 
shaped like men, birds, crocodiles, monkeys, etc., which may be of gold, 
agate, serpentine, whale-tooth ivory, or bone (pi. 20, a, b; figs, 37, a; 39). 
This is but an incomplete list with no attempt to describe the infinite 
variety of forms. 

Peculiar to Cocle are composite pendants made of gold and some other 
material. Among these combinations are ivory, pottery or resin figures 
with overlays of sheet gold, and also various animals with heads of cast 
gold and bodies of emerald (fig. 40), agate, or quartz. Many objects of 
sheet gold are found which once were overlays on now rotted wooden 



Figure 37. — Code ivory and goldwork. a. Ivory representation of crocodile god; 
b, c, gold nose clips (actual size). (After Lothrop, 1937, figs. 162 and 121.) 

FiGtniE 38. — Cocle ear ornament. At right is cross section of method of joining 
(actual size). (After Lothrop, 1937, figs. 128 and 127.) 

Plate 19. — Artifacts from Darlen, Panama, a, Stone celt, Puturgandi (much 
reduced), b, Stone mortar, Pearl Islands (much reduced), c, Pottery vessel 
from La Gloria (approximately yi actual size), d, Vessel from Puerto Pinas, 
Rio Juan Domingo (approximately Yn actual size), e, Vessel from Garachine, 
Santa Barbara (much reduced). (After Linne, 1929, figs. 2, 40, 45, 12, 29.; 

Plate 20. — Artifacts from Code, Panama, a, Agate pendant (approximately 
Ys actual size), b, Gold pendant (approximately % size.) c, Stone celts 
(approximately ^3 actual size), d, Gold disk representing the crocodile god 
(approximately ji actual size.) e, Gold-covered ear ornament (approximately 
% actual size.) (After Lothrop, 1937, pi. 3, figs. 56, 90, 124.) 

Vol. 4] 



Figure 39. — Code gold pendants, a, Curly-tailed monkey; h, crocodile; c, woman. 
(All actual size.) (After Lothrop, 1937, figs. l70, 155, 148.) 
653334 — 48 12 



[B.A.E. Bull. 143 

Figure 40. — Gold and emerald pendants, a, Gold setting; b, emerald from setting; 
c, emerald in cross section, showing systems of drilling. (All actual size.) (After 
Lothrop, 1937, figs. 181 and 180.) 

Metallurgy. — From a metallurgical point of view the artifacts of 
Code are most closely related to those of the western Isthmus (Chiriqui 
and Veraguas) and Colombia. The chief metallurgical processes are cast- 
ing, hammering, welding, soldering, and gilding. Many objects were 
hollow-cast over a clay core by the cire-perdue method, which makes pos- 
sible the creation of elaborate filigree work. Gilding was chiefly by the 
mise-en-couleur process. Alloys are combinations of gold and copper with 
silver present as an impurity (tumbaga). Relatively pure copper ob- 
jects are found, but most of the pieces which now appear to be copper 
actually contain some gold and originally were gilded. Ornaments made 
by cold-hammering are relatively more numerous than in any region ex- 
cept the former Inca Empire. 

Trade. — The Code area was unusually active in trade, and the 
Coclesano maintained commercial relations with distant lands. For in- 
stance, agate, which came to Code apparently from northern Colombia, 
was manufactured in products of Code style and then shipped toward 
Central America. Code pendants of agate have been found not only in 
Veraguas and Chiriqui but as far away as Oaxaca in Mexico. Code re- 
ceived objects of gold from the Sinu and Quimbaya regions in Colombia, 
emeralds from Colombia or more probably Ecuador, Gold pendants from 
Code, on the other hand, have turned up in Yucatan. 

This trade activity in part explains the basis of Code art. Beyond that, 
however, are stylistic traditions from farther away, from the Amazon 
Basin and Peril. These must have blended with a cultural current from 


the north, responsible chiefly for the introduction of polychrome pottery. 
Cultural links cannot be explained in greater detail without further elucidat- 
ing the problem of cultural origins. 

Antiquity. — Code culture evidently is not of great age. The remains 
now known probably all date within two centuries of the Conquest. This 
statement is based partly on trade contacts with other areas and partly on 
internal evidence, such as the rate of accumulation of refuse, stratification, 
and the chronological interrelationship of graves as demonstrated by the 
identification of individual pottery styles. 

Collections. — Large collections from Code may be seen in the Peabody 
Museum, Harvard University ; the Museo Nacional de Panama ; and the 
University Museum (Philadelphia). Smaller collections exist in the 
American Museum of Natural History; the Museum of the American 
Indian, Heye Foundation ; and the Peabody Museum, Yale University. 


The Province of Veraguas, which fronts on both oceans, has a width of 
little more than 50 miles facing the Pacific. Flanking this area are the 
vigorous cultures of Code and Chiriqui. In the intervening territory one 
might expect a blending of the two, but this is not the case. On the con- 
trary, in southern Veraguas there flourished a radically distinct culture, 
extending an unknown distance into the interior. No village sites or re- 
fuse beds have been discovered as yet, but many graves have been opened 
and rifled, largely for the benefit of the tourist trade. 

Burial customs. — ^Veraguas graves usually are located high up on the 
mountain ridges. Their presence is indicated by a slight depression in the 
ground, at the edge of which a few small boulders were sometimes placed. 
Excavation reveals a tubular grave shaft, a meter or more in diameter, ex- 
tending to a depth of 3 to 7 m. ( 10 to 23 feet) . The shaft usually is not 
verticle ,but slopes slightly. At the bottom there is a chamber, made either 
by enlarging the grave shaft or by digging a short horizontal tunnel. On 
the floor of the grave is a bed of river boulders on which the body evidently 
lay in an extended position. No skeletal remains are found, but the posi- 
tion of the body is sometimes outlined by objects placed around it, rarely 
present in large numbers. The grave shaft is filled with the earth exca- 
vated from it or sometimes with stones. 

The type of grave here described has no counterpart in Central America 
or the Isthmian region, but it corresponds closely to the deep-shaft graves 
found in Colombia. 

Stone objects. — Artifacts of stone generally are unlike those of Code 
or Chiriqui. Celts, for instance, are shaped like an elongated bell in out- 
line and are diamond-shaped in cross section. Small chipped blades with 
a tang form an equilateral triangle in cross section. Metates are rectan- 
gular or oval and have three or four legs. The 3-legged metates some- 
times have a carved panel suspended below the grinding surface, a curious 


form found also in the vicinity of San Jose de Costa Rica. Four-legged 
metates may be jaguar effigies with protruding head and tail, similar to a 
type found in Chiriqui and Costa Rica, but the Veraguas specimens are 
very much larger and relatively thinner than those found in other regions. 

Ceramics. — The pottery very rarely is painted, w^ith the exception of 
vessels which obviously were imported from Code or from the Asuero 
Peninsula. It is improbable that the inhabitants of Veraguas did not know 
how to fire colors, as their close neighbors were adepts. Evidently they 
preferred, or had inherited, the tradition of adorning pottery vessels by 
incising and filleting. 

Several pottery shapes apparently were developed locally. Among these 
are globular jars with huge, flaring strap handles. A curious and common 
variant is a vessel with a flat base and top constructed to resemble the upper 
half of the vessels just described. Another characteristic type is shaped 
like a small barrel placed horizontally with a tall tubular neck protuding 
from its side. There are a number of effigy bowls with double walls (gut- 
ter rims), a feature also found at Santarem in the Amazon Valley and, 
very rarely, in Peruvian pottery of Inca style. Tripod legs are not uncom- 
mon, but, unlike those found in other areas, they usually consist of looped 
ribbons of clay. 

The relationship between Veraguas pottery and that of adjacent areas 
may be summarized as follows : Trade took place to the south and east 
for at least two centuries before the Spanish Conquest. At first Veraguas 
purchased from Code, but later Veraguas exported pottery as well as 
acquired it. On the other hand, there is little evidence that Veraguas 
traded pottery with Chiriqui, but the potters of the later region sometimes 
copied Veraguas types in the local clay. Veraguas did, however, export 
objects of metal to Chiriqui in large quantity. 

Metallurgy. — Veraguas metalwork with authenticated provenience has 
reached museums in such quantity that it may be discussed with some 
assurance. It consists largely of cast pendants representing birds, frogs, 
fishes, jaguars, and men. A stylistic peculiarity of the region is that the 
protruding eyes often are tiny bells. In Code cast objects usually were 
hollow or had a day core. In Veraguas, however, hollow-casting was not 
practiced and the artifacts invariably have an open back. Metallurgical 
analysis indicates that almost all objects are of tumbaga, a gold-copper 
alloy. Frequently the gold content is so reduced that the metal has 
oxydized and appears to be copper. When cleaned, however, a gilded sur- 
face appears, originally obtained by the mise-en-couleur process. Analysis 
reveals also that the native gold of Veraguas differs from that of Code 
because it contains a higher content of silver as an impurity. 

Collections. — Comprehensive collections of Veraguas archeological 
material exist only in the Museo Nacional de Panama and the Peabody 
Museum (Harvard University). There is a small but authenticated metal 
collection in the University Museum (Philadelphia). 

Vol. 4] 




The Province of Chiriqui has given its name to an ancient culture that 
flourished in western Panama and the southern half of Costa Rica. Boun- 
daries cannot be defined with precision, but in general the present polit- 
ical division between the Provinces of Veraguas and Chiriqui corresponds 
to the southeastern archeological frontier. To the north this culture ex- 
tends through the central Cordillera of Costa Rica as far as El General. 
Archeological remains from Chiriqui exist in great abundance owing to 
the fact that gold was discovered in the ancient graves nearly a century 
ago. During the period of greatest exploitation in the 1860's, it is reported 
that gold ornaments to the value of £ 10,000 annually were melted down 
by the Bank of England. 

No technical archeologist has made detailed studies of the remains of 
Chiriqui in situ. Hence our knowledge of this culture is based on popular 
articles published many years ago and on the detailed and well-illustrated 
studies of museum collections published by Holmes (1888) and MacCurdy 
(1911). A paper by Osgood (1935) reclassifies the ceramic remains on 
a more modern basis and, so far as is possible, correlates them with vari- 
ous types of graves. 

No evidence of Chiriqui culture exists above ground, except a few pic- 
tographs, vaguely South American in style (fig. 41), and stone columns 
which mark the sites of graves. 

Figure 41. — Pictograph, Chiriqui country. The piedra pintal at Caldera. (After 

Holmes, 1888.) 

Burial customs. — The popular literature of the 19th century, reviewed 
by MacCurdy, indicates that two principal types of tombs are found in 
Chiriqui : rounded or rectangular in outline, both with rough stone walls 
(fig. 42). There was no distinct floor, and the tombs were covered either 
by a layer of river boulders or by flat slabs. Several variant forms may 
be defined which, at present, are not of archeological significance. Skeletal 
remains usually have disintegrated, but the size of the graves suggests 
that they normally contained a single body, interred a meter or two below 
the ground level. In type, size, and depth the Chiriqui graves may be 
vaguely compared to the so-called Guetar burials in northern and north- 


eastern Costa Rica, but they are totally unlike the deep graves of Veraguas 
or the multiple burials of Code. 

Artifacts are not found in quantity with individual Chiriqui burials, and 
so the great number that have come to light is the result of opening many 
thousands of graves. Perishable materials, such as wood or bone, have 

Figure 42.— Chiriqui grave types. Top: Oval. Bottom: Quadrangular, showing 
surface pack of river stones and positions of grave artifacts. (After Holmes, 1888, 
figs. 1 and 2.) 

Vol. 4] 



totally disappeared, and the surviving objects are of stone, pottery, or 

Stone objects. — Stone tools consist of a few^ simple forms. There are 
small chipped blades, triangular in cross section — a form also typical of 
Veraguas. Celts may be pear-shaped in outline, with polished blades and 
roughened polls — a type also found in Code. In addition, there are celts 
with a flaring blade, polished all over. Stone chisels have narrow blades 
and thick, roughened handles. 

Metates, or grinding stones, usually are eflfigies representing a jaguar. 
The grinding surface is either rectangular or oval, and often it is sur- 
rounded by a small raised flange. In addition, there are circular grinding 
stones (sometimes called stools) supported by Atlantean figures or lat- 
ticed columns. These forms, illustrated in figs. 43 and 44, are equally 

Figure 43. — Chiriqui stone metates. a, Jaguar metate with rectangular top; 
b, jaguar metate with guilloche ornamentation. (Size: y2 and J4 actual, respec- 
tively.) (After MacCurdy, 1911, figs. 26, 28.) 

FiGxmE 44. — Cliinqui stone metates or stools. (After MacCurdy, 1911, pi. 4.) 



Figure 45. — Chiriqui stone statues, a. The "Panama Venus" (% actual size) ; 
b, crude human image from Bugarita (]^i actual size). (After MacCurdy, 1911, 
figs. 40a and 38.) 

typical of the Guctar area to the north in Costa Rica but, with some ex- 
ceptions in Veraguas, do not occur to the east and south of Chiriqui. 
Small stone statues, usually crudely carved, also recall the Guetar area 
(fig. 45). 

Stone jewelry in Chiriqui consists largely of objects obtained by trade. 
These include jade pendants from the Nicoya Peninsula in northwestern 
Costa Rica as well as agate beads and animal effigies, typical of Code 
and northern Colombia. 

V^ol. 4] 



Figure 46.-Chiriqui pottery types, a-c. Armadillo ware {a, i/.. and & r % actual 
size); d. lost-color or negative painted ware (H actual size Wtrlrwl 
(54 actual size). (After MacCurdy. 1911. fig. 85 pis 6 jl. and '23 ) ^ "'" 



[B.A.E. Bull. 143 

Ceramics. — Pottery vessels from the graves of Chiriqui exist by the 
thousands. In general, they are small and globular with relatively thick 
walls. Jars have no basal support, but bowls often have tripod legs. These 
may be conical and pointed or bulbous and mammiform, both shapes being 
typical of Central America. There are also tall, elongated tripods, a type 
with affinities both in Central and South America. 

Holmes distinguishes 11 and MacCurdy 14 distinct pottery wares. 
The so-called Polychrome ware of both these classifications consists in 
fact of trade pieces from Code and the Asuero Peninsula, representing a 
culture not known at the time these authors wrote. The other wares may 
be divided into two groups, one being purely local in style, the other closely 
related to the Guetar pottery of northern Costa Rica. 

Typical of the local groups is Armadillo ware, a thin buff ware distin- 
guished by delicately rounded outlines (fig. 46, a-c). Decoration is con- 
fined to modeled relief on the neck, shoulders, or tripod legs. There also 
is an important pottery type decorated by negative painting (fig. 46, d). 
Except for the technique of adornment, this group shows little resemblance 
to the well-developed negative painting of northeastern South America, 
but slight links may be noted with the negative painting of the Guetar area. 
The so-called Alligator ware of Holmes and MacCurdy is really a local 
polychrome, painted in black and red on a white slip. The name comes 
from the fact that most the designs represent crocodiles or stylized ele- 
ments derived from the crocodile (fig. 47). 

Figure 47. — Chiriqui pottery. Alligator ware, a, Vessel with alligator motifs 
(approximately J/3 actual size) ; b, alligator design. (After MacCurdy, 1911, 
figs. 235 and 208.) 

Among the Chiriqui pottery types with Guetar affiliations are Red-line 
ware, White-line ware, Handled ware. Tripod ware (fig. 46, e), Maroon 
ware, and Chocolate ware. The resemblance between the two areas is so 
close that it is often difficult to tell the provenience of individual vessels 
unaccompanied by field data. Evidently the two cultures share in part a 
common base, but not enough evidence is available to discuss the question 
of origins. 


Typical of the Chiriqui area are small pottery figurines with polychrome 
decoration. These often are hollow animal effigies with a whistle incor- 
porated in them. 

Metal objects. — Chiriqui metal objects almost invariably are cast, 
apparently of gold. This is about all that can be said at present, in spite 
of the numerous specimens in museums and private collections. The 
reason for this caution is that recent excavations have shown that a large 
part of the so-called Chiriqui gold is the product of trade with Veraguas. 
Until the local Chiriqui styles can be determined and their metallic content 
analysed, therefore, intelligent discussion is not possible. 

Antiquity. — We have mentioned trade between Chiriqui and other 
regions, which include the Nicoya Peninsula and Guetar area in Costa 
Rica, as well as Veraguas, the Asuero Peninsula, and Code in Panama. 
Correlation with chronological studies made at the Sitio Conte in Code 
indicates that the culture of Chiriqui was contemporaneous at least in part, 
and flourished for two centuries or more before the Spanish Conquest. 

Collections. — Major collections from Chiriqui are housed in the fol- 
lowing museums : American Museum of Natural History, Brooklyn 
Museum, Museum of the American Indian (Heye Foundation), Museo 
Nacional de Panama, Peabody Museum (Harvard University), Peabody 
Museum (Yale University), University Museum (Philadelphia), United 
States National Museum. 


Bancroft, 1882, 1883-90; Holmes, 1887, 1888; Linne, 1929; Lotlirop, 1919, 1937, 
1942; MacCurdy, 1911; Mason, J. A., 1942; Nordenskiold, 1938; Osgood, 1935; 
Oviedo y Valdes, 1851-55 ; Verrill, 1927. 


By Doris Stone 


Central America, the land link of the two American continents, presents 
some of the most comphcated pro,blems in New World archeology. In 
western Central America, nearest Mexico, archeologists have, for the most 
part, concerned themselves with the outstanding features of this region, 
the great Mayan and Mexican ruins. The other problems of the Central 
American area as a whole, and particularly eastern Central America, near- 
est the South American Continent, have scarcely been touched by archeo- 
logical investigation. These problems are concerned with what appear to 
be the basic local cultures which are evident throughout Central America. 
Evidences of these essentially Central American cultures are found in 
relatively unmixed state with regard to outside influences, and they are also 
found blended with Mayan and Mexican complexes. The present discus- 
sion is an attempt to describe and place in their proper geographical and 
cultural setting these basic cultures of Central America. Cultures and 
archeological sites dominantly Mayan or Mexican are outside of the scope 
of this treatment and of the Handbook ; however, they are referred to in 
those instances where their presence has a cultural and historical bearing 
upon the fuller exposition of the other Central American problems. 


The concept of a basic Central American culture, or cultures, is for- 
mulated upon the general horticultural-ceramic level of New World de- 
velopment. Its implications are in no way connected with the presumed 
early peopling of Central America or with a hypothetical cultural level 
equivalent to the early American hunting and gathering horizons found 
in other parts of the New World. It is based, specifically, upon a ceramic- 
stonework complex, which is manifested in varying intensity, from south- 
ern Mexico to Costa Rica. Lothrop has called attention to a series of 
stone sculptures of non-Maya affiliations which may be considered as a 
component of a basic Central American complex (Lothrop, 1921, pp. 311- 
319 ; 1926 a, pp. 163-171 ; 1926 b, vol. 2, pp. 400-404 ; 1940, p. 420). 

> Refer to map 3 for sites discussed in this paper. 



In 1928 Lothrop and Vaillant (Vaillant, 1930, p. 81) grouped these 
traits of stone carving together with a number of ceramic elements, and 
temporarily designated the agglomeration as the "Q-complex." The Q- 
complex traits as ultimately listed by Vaillant (1934, p. 90) are these: 

1. Spouted vessels. 

2. Effigy vessels, either modeled or with filleted features and extremities. 

3. Shoe-form vessels. 

4. Vessels decorated by filleting, modeling, incision, or polishing to the virtual 

exclusion of painting. 

5. Tetrapod supports. 

6. Elongated tripod legs. 

7. High annular bases (occasionally pot stands). 

8. Usulutan ware. 

9. Slipped hand-made figurines. 

10. Crude stone monuments. 

11. Negative painting. 

12. Shallow spouted trays. 

With two exceptions^ the Q-traits are all elements which can justifiably 
be considered as part of an old Central American culture stratum. In the 
following discussion it will be seen that they recur throughout Central 
America. The Q-complex, however, must not be considered as represent- 
ing a particular tribe or culture, for the same 12 traits are not found asso- 
ciated from site to site. In this sense it is not a complex. Rather, these 
features represent a number of ideas common to the Central American 
region and, for the. most part, having an early inception in the culture 
history of the region. In line with this last, it should be noted that a 
number of Q-elements were discovered at Playa de los Muertos in the 
Sula-Ulua Plain of northwestern Honduras (Vaillant, 1934, pp. 87-97; 
Popenoe, 1934, pp. 61-85). This Playa de los Muertos culture was found 
underlying typical Mayan ceramics (Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938). 



A salient archeological fact concerning Costa Rica is that a fundamental 
monochrome ceramic style extends throughout the whole area. Lothrop 
called attention to this when he observed the similarity between Guetar 
(Meseta Central) and Chiriqui ceramics (Lothrop, 1926 b, vol. 2, p. 293), 
At the time he wrote little was known of the intervening section of Tala- 
manca and Boruca, which last includes the General Plateau and the Ter- 
raba Plain. It is our contention that the similarity referred to by Lothrop 
is not the result of Chiriqui influence or contact but of a fundamental 

■ Negative painting is absent in western Costa Rica and in Nicaragua and is picked up again in 
the Pipil area of Salvador (Lothrop, 1926 b, vols. 1 and 2; 1933, footnote 2, p. 51). Its presence 
in eastern Costa Rica is the result of South American or Mexican influence or trade. (See also 
Kidder II, 1940.) Shallow spouted trays are rare in non-Mayan, non-Mexican regions, and 
are not considered here as an essential Central American trait. 


sameness of the pottery of this entire area which has persisted in spite 
of individual or localized changes. It is necessary to examine this basic 
monochrome pottery complex, and later to consider other elements asso- 
ciated with this ceramic division. 

The characteristics of this important monochrome style, and the re- 
gions wherein it occurs most frequently, can be outlined in the following 
manner : 

Spouted vessels : Found throughout the monochrome ware (pi. 22, j, from the 
Nicoya Peninsula). 

Effigy vessels : Found throughout Costa Rica, but especially in the Highland and 
Guetar section and tlie General Plateau (pi. 22, c and /, from the Nicoya Penin- 
sula, and pi. 23, a, from Buenos Aires, Valle General, Boriica region). 

Shoe vessels : Although they seem to extend all over Costa Rica, they are less 
common than the other types. (See Lothrop, 1926 b, vol. 2, pp. 254, 256, and 
pi. 123, d,f; also pi. 22,/.) 

Vessels decorated by filleting, modeling, incision, applique, and punctate pat- 
terns : These are usual and extend all over Costa Rica (pi. 21, h, c, from the 
Guetar, e from Bortica, and pi. 22, a and e, from the Boriica and the Suerre areas, 

Elongated tripod legs : Very usual all over, particularly in the Boruca area (pi. 
21, e). 

Annular bases and pot stands : Found throughout (pi. 24, i-k, from the Guetar 
and Suerre regions). 

Vessel supports in the form of animal and human heads : Very frequent among 
the Guetar; less so in the Boruca section where, when they occur, they are 
generally a modified form of animal and very rarely a human head (pi. 21, h, 
from the Guetar, and pi. 21, d, from the Boruca region ; also pi. 24, h, from the 
Guetar) . 

Subglobular vessels usually without, but sometimes with three legs or with 
ring bases (e.g., see Lothrop, 1926 b, vol. 2; pp. 346-350; also pi. 22, a and e.) : 
Common throughout. 

Six of the ceramic traits listed above are Q-elements, while the seventh, 
vessel supports in the form of animal or human heads, has a wide distribu- 
tion in Central America and might well be included as a Q-characteristic. 
The eighth, subglobular vessels, may perhaps more rightly be considered 
along with the shoe vessels, as they often appear closely connected and 
one may be an outgrowth of the other (Lothrop, 1926 b, vol. 2, fig. 236, 
p. 349; and cf. pi. 22, a, c, e, and f). Of the other five ceramic traits 
listed by Vaillant as part of the O-complex, only one, the tetrapod vessel, 
can be considered with the monochrome pottery. In the Costa Rican 
area tetrapodal supports are rare and when present are more usual on 
animal figurines (see Lothrop, 1926 b, vol. 2, fig. 270, p. 374) or on clay 
counterparts of the four-legged metate. (See pi. 25, h and c, from the 

With the exception of some polychrome wares encountered in the Costa 
Rican Highlands, which Lothrop considers as an off-shoot of Nicoya 
Polychrome ware (Lothrop, 1926 b, vol. 2, p. 295), there is only one 


Other example of polychrome pottery which is essentially non-Chorotegan 
in origin. This is the obvious adaptation of the monochrome basic type 
to reappear in a polychrome form, (See pis. 21, b, and 24, i, both from 
the Guetar area.) Excellent examples of this are shown by Lothrop 
(1926 b, vol. 2, pi. 142, fig. h ; fig. 194, &, p. 308 ; and pi. 142, fig. a). In 
fact, the whole class of pottery known as "Red-line ware" is a painted 
adaptation of the fundamental monochrome style. 

The figurine and figurine whistle are found both as monochrome and 
polychrome specimens in Costa Rica (see pi. 24, n-r; p and q are from 
Goto and Boruca regions; the rest are from the Meseta Central or 
Guetar area) and should be included in a consideration of basic Central 
American ceramics. Probably in no region of the New World is there 
greater diversity of the subject portrayed by the figurine whistle as within 
Central America. Figurine whistles in zoomorphic shapes have a wide 
distribution although more limited in spread than those with the human 
figure. A human, generally female, figure with opened legs and a ten- 
dency to a broad flattened head (see, e.g., pi. 24, l-q; Lothrop, 1926 b, 
vol. 2, pi. 125) is the most prevalent type. This shape occurs with slight 
differences, or localizations of style, throughout the Central American area. 


The first objects in stone to be considered are forms whose exact use 
has not been determined but which as a matter of convenience have been 
classed under the broad terms of "seats" and "metates." These objects 
are of two types, one with three and one with four legs. Both groups are 
common on the mainland, whereas the four-legged variety is very rare 
on the Nicoyan Peninsula.^ 

The tetrapod metates or seats are frequently in the form of a jaguar 
with the tail curved and attached to a hind leg, thus serving as a handle. 
These are very common in the Boruca and the Guetar regions (pi. 26, h, 
from the Guetar area; also Lines, 1939, fig. 9, p. 12), although they are 
found throughout the Costa Rican mainland. Four-legged metates with- 
out the jaguar head and tail are found in greater numbers in the Guetar 
area around the San Juan Plain and in the Meseta Central. These, as is 
true of all the Costa Rican stonework, range in size from the very large 
to the minute. A characteristic of this class of metate is a raised border 
or edge around the bowl or seat. (See fig. 26, h; also Lothrop, 1926 b, 
vol. 2, pi. 141.) 

The three-legged group has the wider distribution, extending through- 
out Central America. In Costa Rica there are two divisions, those from 
the mainland and those from Nicoya Peninsula. Typical of Nicoya are 
slablike legs cut in openwork and a seat with protruding edges (Lines, 

• The everyday grinding stone throughout mainland Costa Rica was a heavy stone slab without 
legs or decoration (Hartman, 1901). 


1939, figs. 26, 27, pp. 20-21 and pi. 26, /, g, and ;). The mainland speci- 
mens are at times very elaborate with complicated carvings on narrow 
legs (Lines, 1935, fig. 1, p. 9, and fig. 3, p. 13) and often like the tetra- 
pod metates, with a slightly raised border around the seat or grinding 
plate. The similarity of the tripod mainland type metate to those from 
Chiriqui has been noted by Lothrop and also by Mason (Lothrop, 1926 b, 
vol. 2, p. 290; 1937, pp. 95-96; Mason, J. A., 1945, pp. 52-53). 


Crude stone monuments in the sense of large monoliths rudely carved 
in human form are strangely lacking on the Costa Rican mainland but 
appear on the Nicoya Peninsula (Richardson, 1940, fig. 39, b, p. 413). 
Smaller figures of a type related to monolithic images, such as have been 
found in the neighboring territories of Panama and Nicaragua (for 
Panama, see Verrill, 1927, figs. 17, 18; for Nicaragua, see Richardson, 

1940, fig. 39, a, c), do occur in the Boruca area (pi. 27, b), while various 
types of stone figures, both large and small, are found all over Costa Rica 
(pis. 27-29; also Hartman, 1901, pi. 3, figs. 1, 3; pi. 11, figs. 2, 3; pi. 12, 
figs, 2, 3; pi. 15, fig. 1). Anthropomorphic and zoomorphic monoliths 
have a massive, blocklike appearance, even when well executed. The 
salient characteristic, however, is a tenon or peg which is unsculptured 
and was apparently designed to be stuck into the earth as a supporting 
base to stand the figure erect (Lines, 1935, fig. 9, p. 25; fig. 11, c, from 
El Palmar; Stone, 1943; for Nicaragua, see Lothrop, 1926 b, vol. 2, p. 
433, San Pedro del Lobago). Sometimes with figures of four legs the 
tenon is absent. 

Another feature characteristic of many of these animal images is a 
human face suspended from the tongue. (See pi. 29, g.) There are also 
human figures with a snake or a snake's head hanging from the mouth 
(pi. 27, h.) This is characteristic of many figures from the Guetar area, 
although it is also present in the Boruca region. 

A different group of stone figures, which likewise have what might be 
classed as a tenon or peg-base, consists of the jadeite pendants or ax-gods 
which occur from the Valle General through the Guetar area and in 
quantities on the Nicoya Peninsula. The base of these jadeite pieces may 
be only a retention of the original "ax-god" form, but their distribution 
is similar to that of the tenon-based monoliths. It is possible that these 
pendants are a relatively late development. Certain of the pendant figures 
also have a snake coming from or connected with the mouth. Some pen- 
dant figures in the Rio Jimenez section of the Guetar territory do not 
have pronounced ax-god bases.'* 

* The presence of these jadeite pendants in the Valle General has been noted by the writer at the 
site of Pejevalle; Hartman (1901) shows examples from the Guetar area; and Hartman (1907) 
illustrates many from the Nicoya Peninsula. (For discussion of the "ax-god" type of figure, see 
Stone, 1941.) 

653334 — 48 13 



Stone dump heaps, or perhaps better named "quarries," have been re- 
ported in the Terraba Basin in southeastern Costa Rica (Stone, 1943) 
and at Las Mercedes on the San Juan Plain (Hartman, 1901). None 
have yet been noted on the Nicoya Peninsula. 


Smooth stone balls, ranging from 1 to 7 feet (0.35 to 2.4 m.) in dia- 
meter, have been found in the Terraba Plain (pi. 30; Stone, 1943). In 
the Valle General the largest ball yet encountered has a diameter of 4 
feet (1.4 m.). This is one that came from a site in the hills by the Pa- 
cuare, a branch of the General River. There are four stone balls at the 
site, two at the north and two at the south of an area 1 km. long. There 
are many graves within this kilometer. In the Meseta Central, part of 
the Guetar area, balls 2 feet (0.7 m.) in diameter have been reported 
(Stone, 1943). As yet no large balls have been found on the Nicoya 
Peninsula. Smaller balls were found by Hartman (1901, pi. 4, figs. 6, 7) 
on the north coast, but those of small size are not considered here. Hart- 
man (1901, p. 42) also calls attention to some large balls from Siquirres. 
He does not give the diameter of these, however. 


Small rocks and boulders left in the natural form but with incised de- 
signs are found throughout Costa Rica (pi. 31, bottom). Generally the 
patterns are curvilinear, but sometimes simple animal figures or even at- 
tempts at human figures appear. They are all simple line drawings, almost 
childlike in conception. We can trace these petroglyphs from the eastern 
frontier of Costa Rica near Piedra de Candela, westward through the Gen- 
eral or Boruca region to the Nicaraguan frontier.^ 


Burials of different kinds are found in Costa Rica, with no one type 
occuring independently of the others. Cremation is most typical, the ashes 
being placed within an urn. A large number of graves, both urn burials 
and deep graves, are marked by a stone shaft or column. In northern 

"The following is a list of sites from where such stones have been reported: Piedra de Candela, 
Piedra Pintada near Java Creek, Rio Volcan (Lothrop, 1926 b, vol. 2, p. 445), Rivas, Palmares, 
Quisara (pi. 31, bottom), Quebrada Grande (Lothrop, 1926 b, vol. 2, p. 443), Santa Maria de 
Dota (ibid., p. 445), Cuerici near La Muerte (ibid., p. 444), La Division (ibid., p. 443); in the 
Meseta Central at Alajuelita, Santa Domingo de Roble, Juan Vifias, Orosi (Hartman, 1901, p. 186, 
fig. 479), Agua Caliente (ibid., p. 189, fig. 482), the San Juan Plain (Hartman, 1901, pi. IS, figs. 
2, 3); and on or near the Nicoya Peninsula at Liberia (Lothrop, 1926 b, vol. 2, p. 427), Hacienda 
de Mogica (ibid., p. 428), Pasondito (ibid.), Lofieros (ibid.), Hacienda de GuachipiUn and 
Hacienda de Guayacanal and Rio Colorado (ibid., p. 425). 


Costa Rica stone-cist graves are found in quantity, although they occur in 
other parts of the republic. The Nicoya Peninsula has a greater variety 
of burial forms, from shell-mound .burials^ to urn burials, mound burials, 
and inhumations (Lothrop, 1926 b, vol. 1, p. 97), 



In the Nicaraguan area certain ceramic types, which fundamentally be- 
long in the monochrome group as noted in Costa Rica, appear only slightly 
modified. Spouted vessels, effigy vessels (pi. 23, b, from Ometepe Island) , 
and vessels whose decoration is characterized by filleting, applique, model- 
ing, incising, and punctate designs are found throughout the Pacific area 
(pi, 22, d, from Muymuy, a site near the boundary of the two departments 
Matagalpa and Chontales; Lothrop, 1926 b, vol, 2, pp. 387-388). These 
"basic Central American" elements persist, despite what may be Mexican 
influences, and are noted particularly in the Black ware, Red ware, Zapa- 
tero ware, and certain types of orange-brown ware (ibid,, pi. 193). The 
same traits, but even less touched by other cultures, with the exception of 
spouted vessels which have not yet been reported, occur on the Caribbean 
side, in country which is historically associated with the Rama (Spinden, 
1925), In fact, the monochrome ware typical of Costa Rica is so much 
a part of the archeology of the Nicaraguan east coast that Strong (1935, 
p, 167) has suggested that this section formed a cultural link between the 
northern coast of Honduras and Costa Rica. 

Shoe-form vessels are found in quantity in the area around Lake 
Nicaragua, particularly on Zapatero Island (Lothrop, 1926 b, vol, 2, 
pp. 254-257), 

Elongated tripod legs occur in the Pacific area, but the examples known 
to the writer are for the most part polychrome and contain, as does most 
of the polychrome ceramics of southern Nicaragua, too many Mexican 
elements to permit any clear discussion of relationship. On the other hand, 
tripod legs ornamented with faces, similar to tripod legs from Costa Rica, 
are found on the Caribbean coast where Mexican influence was less strong 
(Spinden, 1925), while efiigy heads as vessel supports are prevalent (pi, 
24, e) from Muymuy, 

Annular bases are also common, but, as is true of most of the ceramics 
from the Pacific region, the specimens available are generally polychrome 
and Mexicanoid (Lothrop, 1926 b, vol, 1, fig. 61, p. 162). Likewise, sub- 
globular vessels with and without three legs, or with a ring base, are very 
prevalent in the Pacific area (Lothrop, 1926 b, vol. 2, p. 235). 

As in Costa Rica, known examples of tetrapod vessels are rare. 

Figurines and figurine whistles continue from Costa Rica north and 
westward (Lothrop, 1926 b, vol. 2, fig. 149, p. 260; pi. 125, h-j; fig. 150, c, 

• At Culebra Bay there are a number of shell mounds with burials. 


p. 261). The form of the human figurine with stylized flattened head and 
a tendency to opened legs persists, despite speciaHzations or locaHzed dis- 
tinction.'^ The figurine whistle appears in a variety of subjects, certain 
ones having a distribution which is easily traceable. One of the most pop- 
ular forms is a bird whistle. The human figurines from Zapatero Island 
(Lothrop, 1926 b, vol. 2, fig. 165, p. 273 ; fig. 167, a; fig. 167, b; although 
not from Zapatero Island, is in the same style) are particularly important 
as they are more crudely executed than the Nicoya polychrome type and 
are generally monochrome. (Compare these with pi. 24, n, from Costa 
Rica.) Spinden (1925) reports, but does not illustrate, figurines and 
whistles from the Caribbean region in territory associated with the Rama. 
He notes that they were found in connection with ceramic types considered 
here as part of the basic Central American complex. 


The stone complex continues into Nicaragua, where certain elements ap- 
pear to have been more strongly developed than in Costa Rica. Although 
much has been written on Costa Rican metates, very little is known about 
those in the Nicaraguan area, despite the tendency of archeologists to con- 
nect the Atlantic coast of both countries (Kidder II, 1940, p. 454). The 
grinding stone generally cited is the three-legged Nicoya variety (Squier, 
1852, vol. 1, p. 272, pictures one from Leon). Spinden (1925) reports 
Costa Rican style metates from the Caribbean region. 


The outstanding stone trait in Nicaragua, however, is found in the peg 
statues. These take the form of large stone figures representing human 
beings and are of two types, the Chontales group (Richardson, 1940, pp. 
412-414) and what may be called the alter-ego group (Richardson, 1940, 
pp. 405-408; Kidder II, 1940, pp. 452-453), or representations of human 
beings with animals on their backs, and at times with a human head within 
their jaws. The Chontales style is found on the eastern border of Lake 
Nicaragua in the vicinity of Subtiaba around Leon (Squier, 1852, vol. 1) 
and, in particular, on many of the islands of Lake Nicaragua, especially 
Zapatero Island (Squier, 1852, vol. 2). Both types appear on the Carib- 
bean coast (Spinden, 1925 ; Strong, 1935, p. 167). 


"Workshops" have been reported from Corlobalo (Lothrop, 1926 b, 
vol. 2, p. 424), Cerro Tablon (ibid., p. 435), and San Pedro del Lobago 
(ibid., p. 433), in Nicaragua. 

' Compare figurines referred to above with those in the same volume on pi. 128, or Luna ware 



Smooth Stone balls have not yet been reported from Nicaragua. 


Petroglyphs cut on rocks or boulders, or rock walls, have been noted 
throughout the Pacific region of Nicaragua. (For exact locations, see 
Squier, 1852, vol. 2, pp. 21-26, fig. 19, pp. 65-66; Lothrop, 1926 b, vol. 1, 
pi. 8, figs. 12, 13 ; vol. 2, pp. 421, 423, 426, 428, 429, 431-435.) They con- 
tinue on the north coast at Prinzapolca, at the confluence of the Yasica and 
Tuma Rivers (Spinden, 1925), and near Doris farm at El Gallo on the 
Rio Grande de Matagalpa. 


The majority of the reports concerning aboriginal interments in Nica- 
ragua mention urn burials in the Pacific section (Lothrop, 1926 b, vol. 2, 
pp. 421-437), while the Caribbean side remains archeologically unknown. 
Stone-walled graves have been reported by Bransford (1881, p. 60), how- 
ever, on Ometepe Island in Lake Nicaragua, which may have been asso- 
ciated with the Corobici. 

Graves marked by stone shafts, although rare, are found in the western 
section (Strong, 1935, p. 163), while mound burials appear throughout 
this section but with less frequency on the eastern coast. 


The general monochrome ceramic complex as it appears in eastern 
Central America continues into Honduras, where its focus was the Paya 
territory, which includes, of course, the Bay Islands (Strong, 1935; Stone, 
1941). Throughout the Paya region the pottery characteristics noted in 
Costa Rica persist, apparently untouched by the obvious Mexicanization 
which can be seen in many of the Nicaraguan wares. In the Sula-Ulua 
Plain, at a site called Melchior, and in the immediate vicinity, there may 
have been a Paya colony, for the same traits are found as those within the 
Paya region. 

These monochrome wares extend southward into the Comayagua Val- 
ley, where they occur but with less frequency. The ceramics of the Sula- 
Jicaque region as known consist of a related monochrome, incised ware 
(Stone, 1942). In the Sula-Ulua Valley a bichrome type has been given 
the name Ulua bichrome (Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938, p. 123; pi. 9, 
except fig. t). 

In this same section there is also an ancient non-Mexican culture some- 
what distinct from the monochrome complex already discussed in relation 


to Costa Rica and Nicaragua and belonging to more or less the same time 
period as the Ulua bichrome style. This is the Playa de los Muertos cul- 
ture and pottery complex.^ The Playa de los Muertos ware is technically 
superior to the monochrome wares of the Caribbean area of Costa Rica 
and Nicaragua but manifests certain of the same basic forms and styles. 
namely, spouted forms, effigy form, shoe-form vessels, and fluted, incised, 
and modeled ware (Gordon, 1896, pi. 7 ; Popenoe, 1934). There is a pecu- 
liar type of effigy vessel associated with Playa de los Muertos. This is a fat, 
rounded figure with a single large loop handle (Popenoe, 1934, fig. 12, 
p. 75; Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938, fig. 18, h, and pi. 15, fig. a). 

Generally considered to be as old as Playa de los Muertos pottery, 
Usulutan ware, a bichrome group so far found in greatest quantity in 
eastern El Salvador (Lothrop, 1927 a, pp. 175-177; 1933, pp. 47-53), is 
found in Honduras also. Usulutan ware, the decoration of which re- 
sembles but is not negative painting (Lothrop, 1933, particularly footnote 
2, p. 51), is found in Honduras from the Sula-Ulua Valley southward, 
including Olancho, Comayagua, and Tegucigalpa, all Lenca or part Lenca 
country. Usulutan ware evidences so many of the traits found in the 
Playa de los Muertos pattern that it has been suggested that this ware may 
have formed a part of Playa de los Muertos bichrome ceramics (Strong, 
Kidder, and Paul, 1938, pp. 74-75). 

Certain elements of the Central American complex of the Paya, and at 
the same time certain traits found in quantity in western Central America 
and the Pacific area of Nicaragua, and less frequently in Costa Rica, are 
almost entirely absent in Paya territory. The elongated tripod leg, for 
example, is an important feature of Paya ceramics (Stone, 1941, fig. 36) 
but is rarely found in the Sula-Ulua Plain. Spouted vessels, on the other 
hand, are not common in Paya territory but appear frequently in the Sula- 
Ulua region, where they are chiefly associated with the Playa de los Muer- 
tos culture (pi. 22, h, from Yoro, SvXdi-Jkaque territory, and pi. 22, I, 
from Lake Yojoa). Both monochrome (pi. 22, i) and polychrome (pi. 23, 
c) effigy ware is also common. Spouted and effigy vessels extend into 
ware of definite Maya type and continue through the Comayagua Plateau 
southward to the Salvadorean border. 

Interestingly enough, shoe vessels are found in the Paya region, in the 
Playa de los Muertos deposits, and in the Comayagua-Lake Yojoa region, 
where they are found in remote and almost hidden locations, such as caves 
or old graves high in the hillsides. (See pi. 22, g, from Siguatepeque ; and 
Yde, 1938, pp. 26-27, e.g., mentions a shoe-form vessel with a turkey head 
and wings which comes from a cave by Siguatepeque. This is now in the 
Tulane University Museum in New Orleans.) 

8 As a class, Playa de los Muertos pottery has generally been referred to as monochrome, but 
Strong, Kidder, and Paul (1938, pi. 10) discern a Playa de los Muertos bichrome. 


Tetrapod vessels are very rare in Paya country (Stone, 1941, fig. 33, 
e, f) but are found to some extent in the Sula-Ulua Plain, in the upper 
Chamelecon Valley (Yde, 1938, fig. 25, p. 50), and in the Comayagua- 
Yojoa region (ibid., pp. 70-71) and are very common in the Lenca area 
of southwestern Honduras (pi. 25, /, from Marcala). 

Effigy-head vessel supports, both painted and occasionally unpainted, 
are characteristic of southern Honduras, appearing in the Departments of 
El Paraiso near Danli, in Choluteca at La Ola, a historical Ulva site 
(Ponce, 1873, vol. 1, p. 339) at Santa Inez Creek near El Zamorano in 
the Yeguare Valley, in the Comayagua area (pi. 24, c, d, and g), and in the 
Lenca region of southwestern Honduras always as animal, never as human, 
heads (pi. 24, j, from Intibuca, and pi. 25, f). 

The flatheaded, partially opened-leg figurine of the monochrome group 
appears, as would be expected, in Paya territory. Examples similar to the 
Zapatero Island figurines noted in Nicaragua (Lothrop, 1926 b, vol. 2, fig. 
165, h, c, p. 273) have been found in the Guaymoreto Lagoon section of 
the Honduran north coast (Stone, 1934 b, pp. 130-131). The specimen 
shown on plate 24, m, from S\i\a.-Jicaque country in the Department of 
Yoro, Honduras, is better executed but is also reminiscent of certain 
Nicaraguan figures (Lothrop, 1926 b, vol. 2, fig. 158, c, p. 267). This 
type is fairly numerous in both the SvXSi-Jicaque region and in the mixed 
culture zone of the Sula-Ulua Plain. In the Lenca area of Gracias, 
Honduras, and El Salvador, the figurine head is of more importance than 
the body, which either does not appear (pi. 24, I, from Intibuca) or has 
dwindled in size even beyond that of the Snhi-Jicaque figure referred to 

The figurine whistle of the monochrome class noted in Costa Rica and 
Nicaragua occurs also in the Paya area (Spinden, 1925 ; Strong, 1935, pi. 
27, figs. Or-c) and in the Sula-Ulua-Comayagua region and has been re- 
ported from Olancho. 

Within the Playa de los Muertos ceramic pattern is a distinctive type 
of figurine which, although often suggesting the extended-leg figure (Gor- 
don, 1896, pi. 10, figs, d, g), has a natural-shaped head. Besides this, the 
whole object is executed with a skill and a lack of formalization as a rule 
unknown in Central American art. This type is limited to a relatively 
small area in Honduras, extending from the Sula-Ulua Valley through 
the Comayagua region. Figurine whistles or figurine subjects other than 
the human beings do not appear to have been associated with Playa de los 
Muertos culture. However, jadeite ax-gods are associated. 


Three-legged seats and metates of definite Costa Rican style, some even 
with a slightly raised edge, are typical of the Paya area (Stone, 1941, fig. 
34) and occur, as in the former region, in a variety of sizes, from the 


miniature to the overlarge. They appear in the Sula-Ulua Valley at 
Melchoir (pi. 26, c-e) by Palenque Hill (Stone, 1941, fig. 99, p. 96), in 
the Jamastran Valley near the Nicaraguan frontier, and occasionally in the 
Comayagua area. No tetrapod specimens have as yet come to the attention 
of the writer. 


Animal figures with peg bases have been found in southwestern Hon- 
duras (Richardson, 1940, fig. 36, a) but not as yet in the other sections. 
However, the same technique of carving, the same stylization, with excep- 
tion of the base, is evident on the animal representations in stone from the 
Paya area, and in the Ulua Valley near Santa Barbara. (Compare Stone, 
1941, figs. 28, 34, c and /, and pi. 29, e, from Santa Barbara, with pi. 29, 
d, from El Palmar in Boruca country.) Human figures with peg bases 
occur in the Sula-Ulua Valley (Gordon, 1896, fig. 4, p. 12), at Los Na- 
ranjos at Lake Yojoa. (See Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938, pi. 16, fig 1 ; 
fig. 3 might have been a peg-base statue before it was broken. The inter- 
esting feature of this image is the position of the hands (Stone, 1934 a, 
pp. 125-126; Lothrop, 1921, fig. 69, b, and p. 314) ; compare with pi. 27, 
h, from El Palmar, Costa Rica.) Images with peg bases, although of a 
different stylization, are found also in the Copan section (Richardson, 
1940, fig. 35, c, p. 404). 

From southern Honduras, including the islands in the Bay of Fonseca, 
the territory of the historic Mangue (that is, from Nacaome and Perspire) 
and of the Ulva, from La Ola in Choluteca, comes still another type of 
peg figure (pi. 28, a^c, f-g, and ;'). This extends in a degenerate form 
north to Tegucigalpa (pi. 28, k) and has already been noted in the Boruca 
area of Costa Rica (pi. 28, i, from La Ola, Terraba Plain, Boruca region). 
This is similar to the statue illustrated by Gordon from the Sula-Ulua 
Valley. The type often has a sharp spiny ridge or ridges down the back 
(pi. 28, o'), a feature of a group of Costa Rican stone images which have 
been termed "sukia" figures (pi. 29, c, from Guapiles, Guetar territory; 
Lines, 1938 a). Statues related to those from southern Honduras have 
been found at San Jose de Colinas in the Department of Santa Barbara 
(Yde, 1938, fig. 19, p. 40) and near Naco in the Chamelecon Valley (pi. 
28, h). Occasionally a second human head instead of a peg is used (turn 
pi. 28, /, upside down). In Gracias, and near San Lorenzo by the Bay 
of Fonseca, "sukia" figures identical with those of the Guetar region of 
Costa Rica have been found (pi. 29, a, from San Lorenzo, and pi. 29, b, 
from Gracias). This style of statue does not have a peg base. 

Jadeite ax-gods also are common in Paya territory (Stone, 1941, fig. 
39) and are found to a lesser extent in the Sula-Ulua and Comayagua 
areas and in the vicinity of the city of Tegucigalpa (personal observation 
of the writer). 



The only examples of stonework shops or deposits have been reported 
from Paya country (Spinden, 1925, e.g., fig. 1). 


In Honduras, stone balls larger than the ordinary ball used in the bola 
have been found in Tenampua in Comayagua (Popenoe, 1936, pp. 569- 
570), at Travesia in the Sula-Ulua Plain (Stone, 1941, p. 94), and at 
San Jose de Colinas in the Santa Barbara region (Yde, 1938, fig. 19, 
p. 40). 


Petroglyphs of the type encountered in Costa Rica are scattered over 
Honduras. They are found in Paya country, for example on the Plantain 
River (Spinden, 1925, fig. 2). They are found also in Olancho outside 
of Guaymaca, at Tenampua in Comayagua (Popenoe, 1936, pi. 4, fig. 2), 
at Los Gallianos near Yarumela likewise in Comayagua, at Aramecina in 
the Goascoran valley (Squier, 1908, p. 299), in the immediate vicinity 
of the city of Tegucigalpa toward the southeast, at Nueva Armenia by 
the upper reaches of the Nacaome River, and at Cerquin in Gracias (pi. 
31, a). Much of this region was occupied by the Lenca. 


Burials are of various types. Stone-cist graves are rare but occur in 
the Paya area. Here also are what may be urn burials both in caves and 
outside (Stone, 1941, fig. 6, p. 23). Some of these are cremated remains. 
Urn and skull burials occur on the Bay Islands (Strong, 1935). In the 
Sula-Ulua Plain, at Melchoir, stone shafts marking graves occur (pi. 32). 
There are similar shafts on the Bay Islands (Strong, 1935, p. 135), al- 
though it is not known whether burials are located beneath them. A re- 
port of cave burial likewise comes from the Bay Islands (Strong, 1935, 
p. 32). In the Sula-Ulua Plain, in the SulsL-Jicaque territory, up the 
Sulaco River, and in part of the Comayagua area burials seem to have 
been in mounds; but in the region of Lake Yojoa, in addition to mound 
burials, bodies were placed in the crevices of large rocks on the islands 
in the lake. In the Comayagua region also, and in all the Lenca country 
of southwestern Honduras, caves were used for burials. There is as 
yet no report on the burial types from southeastern Honduras. 


The monochrome-stone complex is stronger in eastern, or the ancient 
province of Chaparrastique, than in western El Salvador. However, the 


spread of basic elements is noticeable throughout. Only one trait, an 
elongated tripod leg, seems to have disappeared or never reached the 
Salvadorean area, while the others persist, particularly in the east. 

As in Nicaragua, the ceramics of El Salvador which may be seen in the 
collections are usually polychrome. These show, however, a combination 
or a persistence of monochrome traits. An important inclusion among 
the painted ceramics is Usulutan ware, most common in eastern, although 
found in both eastern and western. El Salvador. 

Spouted, effigy, and shoe-form vessels and vessels with annular bases are 
very frequent in the east. (See Spinden, 1915, fig. 61, pp. 458, 482; 
Lothrop, 1927 a, fig. 24, /. The vessel shown in fig. 24, /, is similar to one 
from the Gnetar section, which is now in the Museo Nacional in Costa 
Rica. See also fig. 18, e-g, and material collected by John Longyear III, 
Peabody Museum, Harvard University.) 

Modeled, incised, and punctate patterns are also prevalent. 

As in the Lenca territory, tetrapod vessels are common, extending 
throughout eastern and western El Salvador (pi. 25, a). 

Effigy supports on vessels, both polychrome and monochrome, are found 
in El Salvador (material collected by John Longyear III, Peabody Mu- 
seum, Harvard University). Many supports portray human heads and 
are as a whole similar to those in Costa Rica. The animal-head legs are 
as a rule conventionalized, as in the Lenca area of Honduras, and have 
small snoutlike bases, sloping foreheads, and two holes or indentations for 
eyes. Sometimes they are so formalized that the eyes are omitted. The 
indented or sloping forehead is a characteristic of L^nca-area pot legs. 
Loop handles with raised heads are typical of the Lenca region and are 
common in eastern El Salvador. Also numerous are monkey-head lugs, 
likewise characteristic of the Lenca area (pi. 24, a). 

Figurines in eastern El Salvador are found in a variety of styles, which 
include Playa de los Muertos, bird and animal representations related to 
the Sula-Ulua region as well as to Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and a ver- 
sion of the conventionalized flatheaded type so prevalent in eastern Cen- 
tral America. (See Lothrop, 1927 a, fig. 23, p. 209; Stone, 1941, fig. 1, 
p. 13. Compare Lothrop, 1926 b, vol. 2, fig. 157, a, from Nicaragua, 
with Stone and Turnbull, 1941, pi. 8, fig. g, from the Sula-Ulua Plain, and 
with Stone, 1941, fig. 1, l-k, from eastern El Salvador.) In fact, Loth- 
rop (1927 a, p. 211) attributes the flatheaded figurine to Chorotcgan 
influence. We have seen that, with the exception of a possible enclave 
of Maribio (Lehmann, 1920, 2:647-649) in the north, basically Central 
American nations inhabited this area. It is not surprising, then, to find 
this figurine type extending into the eastern Salvadorean region. 

Cuscatlan, or western El Salvador, is more closely bound with Guate- 
mala than the section east of the Lempa River. Here, at Cerro Zapote, 
San Jacinto, El Salvador, Lothrop and Larde y Larin found stratified 


remains, in the lowest level of which were figurines reminiscent of red- 
ware figurines from Costa Rica (Lothrop, 1927 a, p. 175) and tetrapod 
vessels (ibid., p. 176). 


The stone complex continues also into El Salvador. Curiously enough, 
the usual metate, particularly in the east, is a four-legged variety, some- 
times with an extended animal head (Lothrop, 1927 b, fig, 8, p. 31). 
Around Quelepa, rectangular stones without legs but with a deeply hol- 
lowed grinding basin have been found. (Information from John Longyear 
III, Peabody Museum, Harvard University.) Such grinding stones are 
common in Costa Rica in the Talamanca and Boruca sections. 


Spinden (1915, p. 459, fig. 63, p. 460) has noted that animals portrayed 
in stone, although rare, are heavy and massive and that the human figures 
are sculptured with the arms and legs in relief against the body. We have 
followed this method of carving and representation north and west from 
southeastern Costa Rica. Lothrop (1927 b, fig. 7, p. 30) publishes a stone 
figure of a man which he notes is a common type in the coastal region. 
This is identical to figures from the Lenca area in the Department of 
Gracias in Honduras and is reminiscent of the "sukia" figures of Costa 
Rica. (Cf. with pi. 29.) 

Quantities of small jadeite ax-gods with peg bases occur in eastern El 
Salvador. (Information from John Longyear III, Peabody Museum, 
Harvard University; also see Lothrop, 1927 b, p. 33.) 


Petroglyphs are found in northeastern El Salvador, and caves with 
pictographs are reported (Spinden, 1915, p. 450). 


Stone dump heaps or quarries have not been reported from this area. 


Stone balls have not been reported. 


Little has been reported on burial customs in El Salvador. The writer 
has heard of .burial caves in the northeastern section but has never seen 
them. In the western half of the republic, Maya and Mexican methods of 
burial are prevalent. 



As might be expected, there are certain centers where non-Maya, non- 
Mexican traits are predominant in Guatemala and where there occurs a 
monochrome ware with a definite relationship to that which has been traced 
throughout Central America. This monochrome ware at times underlies 
polychrome Maya horizons and at times is associated with them. The 
centers known at present for this basic style are Uaxactun and Holmul in 
the Peten (Vaillant, 1930, pp. 79-80), Chama in the Alta Verapaz (Butler, 
1940, pp. 250-267), Zacualpa (Wauchope, 1941, pp. 211-231, particularly 
pp. 229-231) and Salcaja in the Highlands, Chukumuk and neighboring 
sites around Lake Atitlan (Lothrop, 1933), and the Fincas Arevalo and 
Miraflores near Guatemala City (Lothrop, 1926 a). Usulutan ware is 
generally associated with this monochrome style, and Lothrop (1933, p. 
48) has listed the following locations where it has been noted : Chukumuk, 
Xikomuk, the Fincas Arevalo and Miraflores, Semetabaj, Zacualpa, Sal- 
caja, and the Departments of Sacatepequez and Alta Verapaz, This list 
includes practically every known site at which the monochrome complex 

Following more exactly the locations of the various monochrome ce- 
ramic types, we find spouted vessels at Holmul (Vaillant, 1930, fig. 6, pp. 
79-50), at Chama in period HI (Butler, 1940, p. 262), at Chukumuk 
associated with Usulutan ware (Lothrop, 1933, p. 47), and at Salcaja 
(Vaillant, 1930, p. 81). 

Effigy vessels, tetrapod supports, and vessels decorated by filleting, 
modeling, incising, and punctating (applique patterns are not so common) 
occur at most of the sites named above. 

Subglobular pots are common, particularly in the Lake Atitlan region 
(Lothrop, 1933, figs. 13, e; 20, b). 

Shoe-form vessels are rare but have been reported from Chipal, a site 
similar to Chama in the Alta Verapaz (Butler, 1940, p. 262), Saculeu 
(Wauchope, 1941, p. 224), and Zacualpa (ibid., p. 229). According to 
most reports the shoe-form vessels are late. 

Ring bases and pot stands are fairly common. 

Effigy-head vessel supports, although having a general distribution, 
appear more frequently in Zacualpa than in the other sites (Wauchope, 

Figurines and figurine whistles in the Guatemala area are rare and 
are marked for the most part by outside influences. Flatheaded figurines 
are unknown to the writer. Lothrop illustrates certain other types from 
Chuitinamit, one of which is a figurine whistle in human form. The 
position of the legs is reminiscent of certain Salvadorean and Sula-Ulua 
figures and may perhaps be an adaptation of the monochrome style seen 
throughout Central America. (See Lothrop, 1933, fig. 61, h, p. 96.) 



Metates of southern Central American type are rare. One stone seat 
and a portion of another were found at Chuitinamit (Lothrop, 1933, p. 
86, fig. 53). These are actually seats and not grinding stones, differing 
slightly from those seen in eastern Central America, although Strong 
mentions what may be miniature stone seats in the Bay Islands of Hon- 
duras (Strong, 1935, p. 131). 


Petroglyphs on rocks and boulders have been reported from the lake 
district (Lothrop, 1933). The pattern, however, is not the typical scroll 
and crude curvilinear design noted in the other regions of Central 
America. There is a possibility, of course, that the more complicated cul- 
tures of the Maya and the Pipil may have influenced the style of these 
rock carvings. 


The most marked development of the stone complex in Guatemala 
seems to have been the peg statues. They have, generally speaking, the 
same distribution as the other objects associated with the Central American 
basic cultures, occurring principally in the Lake Atitlan region (Lothrop, 
1933, fig. 10, h, p. 27; fig. 63, h, c, p. 99; fig. 64, p. 100), and outside of 
Guatemala City at Finca Arevalo (Lothrop, 1926 a). In the Peabody 
Museum, Harvard University, is a peg or tenon statue from the Guate- 
malan Highlands (pi. 27, i). There is very little difference between this 
statue and the Borvca peg figures. 


Stone dump heaps and balls are not reported in Guatemala, and there 
is only one mention of stone-cist graves. This is at Zaculeu (Saculeu), 
and their relationship to the stone-cist graves of the other regions of 
Central America is not definable at present (Hartman, 1901, p. 192). As 
in the Sula-Ulua Valley of Honduras, there seems to have been no special 
form of interment. It is interesting, however, that at least one body has 
been found placed under boulders as on the islands in Lake Yojoa, 
Honduras (Lothrop, 1933). 


An attempt has been made here to present what is considered to be the 
basic cultural matrix of Central America as disclosed by the archeological 
evidence. In doing this it has been necessary also to show how those 
cultural features of the region, which are here considered basic Central 


American, are related and intermingled with traits essentially Mayan or 
Mexican. Throughout Costa Rica we can follow this basic monochrome 
ceramic-stone complex into southeastern Nicaragua up through Zapatero 
Island in Lake Nicaragua and, as far as our scant knowledge of the region 
permits, through the Caribbean section into and through the Paya territory 
in Honduras to the Sula-Ulua Valley. This complex is technically and 
artistically simpler than the more complicated traits of the Maya and 
Mexican cultures. This eastern Central American region, outlined above, 
seems to have remained, for the greater part, un-Mexicanized and undis- 
turbed by invasions from the north and west. Here the basic culture 
apparently has persisted with little interruption. 

On the Caribbean side the basic complex can be followed up the Segovia 
and Jamastran Valleys and across the divide south to the Pacific and north 
and west through the Choluteca Valley into eastern El Salvador and 
southern Gracias. Here many of its traits persist almost untouched by the 
neighboring and relatively recently arrived Mexican peoples. Farther 
north in Honduras, in the Departments of Tegucigalpa, Comayagua, La 
Paz, Intibuca, and the northeastern portion of Copan, and in parts of the 
Chamelecon Valley into the Sula-Ulua Valley, and even in Guatemala, are 
vestiges of the spread of this same complex, which is most obvious in the 
stonework and in ceramic traits such as lugs, handles, and an applique 
technique especially noticeable on effigy vases. 

On the Pacific side of Central America the aboriginal populations were 
disturbed and in part conquered by peoples from the north, coming from 
territory now belonging to Mexico. Some of these tribes, for example, 
the Chorofega-Mangue, apparently arrived in Central America so far in 
the past as to seem almost indigenous in this area and were themselves 
followed and intruded upon by the later migrations of the Subtiaba, the 
Nahua or Nicarao, and the Aztec. 

Mixed with this spread of Mexican influences were certain definitely 
Maya elements which, outside of what is generally accepted as Maya 
territory, may have been the results of trade or of an earlier extension of 
the Maya to the eastward. Maya traits are found from Guatemala 
through El Salvador and western Honduras (Lothrop, 1939), beyond 
the region of Lake Yojoa through the Comayagua Plateau and the Sulaco 
Valley, and in sketchy locations in the present Departments of Tegucigalpa, 
Choluteca, and El Paraiso in Honduras, the Cua River, a branch of the 
Segovia River, in Nicaragua (Lehmann, 1910, p. 748), the area around 
Managua, Nicaragua (information from Francis Richardson, Carnegie 
Institution of Washington), and the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica. 
This Maya influence is particularly evident in the painted ceramics, es- 
pecially in the pictorial designs and in the cylindrical vase form. In Hon- 
duras in the Sula-Ulua and Comayagua Valleys, the headwaters of the 
Sulaco River, at Esquias, and in Costa Rica on the Nicoya Peninsula have 


been found carved marble vases of a type which the writer considers to be 
of Maya workmanship but of a Paya-Maya inspiration (Stone, 1941). 

From this it is evident that there were two cultural centers in Central 
America. The first is most clearly seen on the Caribbean coast, extend- 
ing from the Paya area of Honduras through the Costa Rican mainland 
and into South America, and south through the Ulva-Matagalpa of south- 
eastern El Salvador and southern Honduras and Nicaragua to the Coro- 
hici of the Nicoya Peninsula. The second is that of Highland peoples 
such as the Lenca tribes of Honduras and El Salvador. The first is 
characterized by the monochrome ceramic-stone complex, referred to 
above, while the second shows evidence of subsequent influence from the 
Maya and the Mexican peoples. 

The monochrome ceramic-stone complex of the first or Caribbean cul- 
ture center is, perhaps, seen to best advantage in Costa Rica. The pot- 
tery is characterized by subglobular forms and annular bases. Vessels 
have short necks and zoomorphic handles. A flatheaded human figurine® 
of pottery should also be included in the Caribbean group, although a 
variety of subjects served as models for the figurine or figurine whistle 
within this area. The applique patterns, so much a part of what has 
been termed Red Line ware and Stone Cist ware, have a universal dis- 
tribution throughout Costa Rica. In southeastern Costa Rica these types 
are less common; even there, however, the principal ceramic type is a 
subglobular bowl with raised and often appliqued figures as ornamenta- 
tion. Lothrop relates this type, along with elongated tripod vessels, which 
are an important feature of Boruca region ceramics, to the Chiriqui 
(Lothrop, 1926 b, vol. 2, p. 412; Stone, 1941, 1943). The monochrome 
applique ware of the Boruca and Guetar country has its counterpart in a 
similar style found in the Paya region of northeastern Honduras; and 
applique pottery also continues in a modified form among the Sn\a.-Jicaque 
and, less frequently, in Lenca territory and Guatemala (Lothrop, 1933, 
pp. 31-34, figs. 12, e, g; 13, f; 15, a, and pp. 47-53; Stone, 1942, p. 382, 
fig. 43). In these latter regions and on the Pacific side applique pottery 
is blended with polychrome pottery but persists in keeping certain of its 
monochrome or applique characteristics.^^ 

At present it seems reasonably clear that this monochrome ceramic 
complex reached its highest development in the Central American Carib- 
bean region, and no other culture has been found to underlie it as far as 
the Ulua Valley. 

The roots of the second culture center were chiefly in the western 
and southern portions of Central America and in part coincide with the 

» This flatheaded figurine style is concentrated in eastern Central America and northern South 
America (Lothrop, 1926 b, vol. 2, figs. 148, 166; Arango C, 1929, fig. 4). 

'" The distribution of appliqu^ ware includes, outside of the Central American area. Highland 
Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru in South America (Lothrop, 1926 b, vol. 2, p. 409). It occurs also in 
less complicated forms in the Antilles (Rouse, 1939, pp. 110-113; pis. 1-S) and in simple forms 
in Venezuela (Lothrop, 1926 b, vol. 2, p. 410). 


spread of the monochrome complex. As a result both complexes were 
closely bound together. Many of the elements that appear as charac- 
teristic of both centers seem to have been transmitted through the 
Su\a.- Jicaque, who not only were closely allied both culturally and geo- 
graphically with the Pay a but also stretched far into Lenca territory 
(Stone, 1941, 1942). Characteristic of both SvXdi- Jicaque and Lenca 
ceramics are lugs with raised animal heads. These can be divided into 
two classes. One has a head so formalized, or perhaps so degenerated, 
as to appear only a raised nubbin on the lugs (pi. 21, a, from Marcala), 
often with two holes for eyes, and occasionally with merely two small 
indentations in a triangular-shaped button (Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 
1938, pi. 14, fig. d; also pi. 25, e, from Siquatepeque). The other class 
has protruding well-formed heads generally of monkeys (pi. 24, a; also 
Yde, 1938, fig. 46, p. 72). Both types depend largely on the use of paint 
to perfect the facial details, but the second style is never found without 
paint, whereas the first often appears as monochrome ware. Another 
important feature of the ceramics from these areas is the efifigy head of 
an animal on or as the vessel support. This, especially in ^\x\2i- Jicaque 
pottery, is often merely suggested by an indentation at the knee of the 
pot leg. The use of the whole head and also the use of indentation is, 
however, a characteristic Lenca style. • 

The patterns of Chukumuk brown ware in Guatemala are reminiscent of 
S\i\2i-Jicaque ceramics. (Cf. Lothrop, 1933, fig. 12, with Stone, 1942, fig. 
43.) Lothrop has already pointed out that the subglobular vessel with 
tripod legs, such as occurs at Chukumuk, Guatemala, has been found also 
at the Fincas Arevalo and Miraflores, at Zacualpa, and at Salcaja ; and all 
are comparatively early. He suggests that this is South American in- 
fluence^^ into northern Central America (Lothrop, 1933, p. 33). In fact, 
continual attention is called to the Costa Rican-Nicaraguan influence noted 
at many of the Guatemalan sites (Lothrop, 1933, pp. 44-45, 47-48). 

The Playa de los Muertos types.with which should be associated Usulu- 
tan ware, emphasize further the blending of cultures. Many figurines in 
the Boruca area of Costa Rica, for example, are portrayed in positions 
similar to certain Playa de los Muertos figures. (Cf. Popenoe, 1934, fig. 
12, p. 75, with pi. 24, p.) Playa de los Muertos as a ceramic style extends 
through the Sula-Ulua Plain, through the Comayagua Valley into eastern 
El Salvador, and in part, minus figurines, into Guatemala.^^ 

In the Lenca territory certain traits stand out and are traceable through 
the Central American area. Tetrapod vessels are characteristic of Lenca 

■■1 The present author prefers to attribute this influence to the two Central American centers, 
the Caribbean and the Highland, and not with South America. 

" Vessels similar to Playa de los Muertos are common in Colombia (Arango C, 1929, vol. 1, 
fig. 11; vol. 2, fig. 1) and particularly in Perii (Strong, 1925, pi. 48). The same pottery types 
have an analogy in Uaxactun, Guatemala (Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938, p. 122), and in the 
Chukumuk ware from the Guatemalan lake district (ibid., pp. 122-123). 


Plate 21. — Tripod styles from Costa Rica and Honduras, a, From Marcala, 
Honduras, Lenca Territory; b, c, from Guetar area, Costa Rica; d, e, from the 
Boruca region, Costa Rica, {b, c, Courtesy National Museum, San Jos6, 
Costa Rica; others, courtesy Doris Stone.) 

Plate 22. — Some basic Central American ceramic types, a, San Isidro, General 
Valley, Boruca region; h, Coniayagua Valley, Honduras; c, /, j, Nicoya Pen- 
insula, Costa Rica; d, Muymuy, Matagalpa area, Nicaragua; e, Guetar area, 
Costa Rica; g, Siguatepeque, Honduras; h, Yoro, Sula-Jicaque country, Hon- 
duras; i, Lake Yojoa, Honduras, (c, e, f, j, Courtesy National Museum, 
San Jose, Costa Rica; others, courtesy Doris Stone.) 

'!T%i\i' ff'^i 




Plate 23. — Effigy vessels from Central America, a, Buenos Aires, General 
Valley, Boruca region, Costa Rica; b, Ometepe Island, Nicaragua; c, d, two 
views of a vessel from Las Vegas, Comayagua Valley, Honduras, (a, b, 
Courtesy Doris Stone; c, d, courtesy Federico Lunardi.) 



, -5.J51IWii,.H ^ 






Plate 24.-Central American pot legs, lugs, stands, figurines a, c d Q^K 

Comavagua Valley, Honduras; b, i-fc, n, o, r, Gizetor area, Costa Rica^ e. Mu>- 
XBuy. SaZpa La, Nicaragua; /, Z, Intibuca L.nca territory Hondura. 
r Yoro, IZ-Jicaciue territory, Honduras; p, Co<a region, Costa Rica j, 
B^rJca r;gion. Costa Rica. (i-fc. n. r, Courtesy National Museum. San Jos6. 
Costa Rica; others, courtesy Doris Stone.) 


Plate 25. — Central American ceramic types, a, El Salvador; h, c, Guetar area, 
Costa Rica; d, Lake Yojoa, Hondviras; e, Siguatepeque, Honduras; /, Marcala, 
Lenca territory, Honduras. (6, c, Courtesy National Museum, San Jose, 
Costa Rica; others, courtesy Doris Stone.) 




Plate 26. — Stone seats or metates from Central America. /, g, i, Nicoya 
Peninsula, Costa Rica; c-e, Melchoir, Sula-Ulua Valley, Honduras; ft, Guetar 
area, Costa Rica, {f-i. Courtesy National Museum, San Jos6, Costa Rica; 
others, courtesy Doris Stone.) 

Plate 27. — Stone peg figures from Costa Rica and Guatemala, a-g, Terraba 
Plain, Boruca area, Costa Rica; h, Guetar region, Costa Rica; i, Guatemala 
Highlands, {i, Courtesy Peabody Museum, Harvard University; others, 
courtesy Doris Stone.) 

I >^-^ 

' J '^ 

Plate 28.— Stone peg figures from Costa Rica and Guatemala, a-c, Gueguensi 
Island, Ulva territory, Honduras; d, e, i, Terraba Plain, Boruca region, Costa 
Rica- / Sacate Grande Island, Honduras; g, Nacaome, Honduras; h, Naco, 
Honduras; j, San Lorenzo, Honduras; k, Humuya Creek, Tegucigalpa, Hon- 
duras. (Courtesy Doris Stone.) 

Plate 29 -Stone sukia and animal figures from Costa Rica and Honduras 

a, ban Lorenzo, Honduras; b, Department of Gracias, Honduras, Lenca terri- 
tory; c, auetar area, Costa Rica; d, f, g, Terraba Plain, Boruca area, Costa 
Kica; e Santa Barbara, Honduras. (6, Courtesy National Museum, Teguci- 
galpa, Honduras; others, courtesy Doris Stone.) 

Plate 30. — Stone balls in the Terraba Plain. The Boruca region, Costa Rica. 

(Courtesy Doris Stone ) 

Plate 31. — Petroglyphs, Honduras and Costa Rica. Top: Cerquin, Gracias, 
Lenca area, Honduras. Bottom: Quisara, General Vallej-, Boruca area, Costa 
Rica. (Courtesy Doris Stone.) 

Plate 32. — Stone grave markers from Honduras. 

(Courtesy Doris Stone.) 

The Sula-Ulua 


pottery (pi. 25, /) and continue in numbers into what may have been 
originally Xinca country, such as Atitlan, as well as in other sections of 
Guatemala, where they occur frequently in Usulutan ware (Lothrop, 1933, 
p. 49). It has been suggested that tetrapod vessels, annular bases, and pot 
stands are South American in origin (Thompson, 1936, 140-141, p. 16). 
The concentration of tetrapod vessels in the Lenca area and their gradual 
diminution toward eastern Central America argue against this thesis, how- 
ever, and place the tetrapod vessel within the Highland culture center. 
The annular base and pot stand occur too frequently in Central America 
to permit the ready acceptance of a South American origin, although they 
belong both with the Caribbean and with the Highland groups. 

Painted fine-line decoration and a formalized painted or even slightly 
raised eye or face on the vessel side (fig. 25, d, from Lake Yojoa, and 
pi. 25, e; also see Stone, 1941) are other Lenca area traits which are 
found in Ulva-Matagalpa territory and continue eastward through Nicara- 
gua, e.g., Nandaime Ware (Lothrop, 1926 h, vol. 1 ; pp. 217-22). Fine- 
line monkey vessels, with extended monkey-head handles and with raised 
animal heads as legs, also follow more or less the same distribution and 
seem to have their center in the Lenca area of Honduras and northeastern 
El Salvador. At the same time they show influences from the Paya 
region of the Honduras north coast (Stone, 1941). 

The earliest ceramic types from Cerro Zapote, in western El Salvador, 
a region that at one time may have been Xinca or even Lenca, evidence 
a close relationship to the ceramics of eastern El Salvador, namely the 
Departments of Usulutan and San Miguel (Lothrop, 1933, p. 59), which 
are principally Lenca, although in part Ulva, territory. The Xinca as 
well as the Lenca were a Central American group who apparently de- 
veloped their culture within the region of Central America and served 
as a channel for diffusion between the cultures of Central America and 
those of the Maya and their Mexican neighbors. 

The carrying of culture traits by the Lenca is apparent not only in 
the north of Central America but also in the southern area. Remains 
from the territory of the Corobici, which originally seems to have in- 
cluded southwestern Costa Rica and the region of Lake Nicaragua, evi- 
dences this same blending of traits associated with both the Caribbean 
and Highland centers. The Lenca seemingly formed a link connecting 
the Xinca and the Pacific side of Central America. 

In regard to stonework the distribution of metates in Central America 
presents an interesting but confusing problem. It is difficult to determine 
just what objects should be called metates and what should be classed as 
seats. Aside from this, stones which were obviously used for grinding 
purposes are common all over the Costa Rican mainland. These are 
nothing more than large rocks with hollow portions which served as 
a bowl and without even a sign of legs or of adornment. In southern 

653334 — 48 14 


or eastern Costa Rica, exclusive of the Nicoyan Peninsula, the prevalent 
type of metate or seat, other than the grinding stones mentioned above, 
was the four-legged variety. This type extended as we have seen all 
over the mainland, but in the North Coast area, e.g., Mercedes, and in 
the Highland region, the four-legged type is found along with the three- 
legged. In Nicoya, although four-legged metates occur, the usual grind- 
ing stone has three legs. The three-legged class continues throughout 
Nicaragua and the Paya area of Honduras into the Comayagua Valley, 
and over into Guatemala, where, interestingly enough, in the area which 
is definitely Maya, the metate with legs is generally replaced by metates 
without legs.^^ This last type is not the unworked crude grinding stone 
found in Costa Rica but is the grinding portion of the legged metate 
without the supports (Stromsvick, 1935). The four-legged metate ap- 
pears again in quantity in eastern El Salvador, where the three-legged 
variety is practically nonexistent. 

It is reasonable to suggest from this survey that the 3-legged metate 
was preferred by the Caribbean group. The 4-legged grinding stone 
was apparently confined to the Pacific side. Whether this tetrapod va- 
riety belongs fundamentally with the Highland centers or whether it 
originally developed in the Caribbean centers cannot be determined until 
further archelogical work is done, particularly in Ulva country, such as 
Choluteca in Honduras and the adjoining region in Nicaragua. 

Concerning the peg statues, these stone figures are characteristically 
Central American and apparently non-Mayan. They have been linked 
with the Chorotega (Lothrop, 1926 b, vol. 1 ; p. 93) and tentatively with 
the Pipil (Thompson, 1941, pp. 52-56). Some investigators have sug- 
gested a South American origin (Richardson, 1940, pp. 414-416; Kidder 
II, 1940, pp. 452-453). Figures on pedestals, pegs, or columns, however, 
extend throughout the Central American area, and their presence in the 
Costa Rican Highlands and Boruca region, where the culture appears to 
have been more unified and less affected by foreign influences, suggests 
equally the possibility of a Central American origin. The various types 
of peg figures, e.g., those of the Chontales group (Richardson, 1940, pp. 
412-416), of the Ulua-Yojoa area (Gordon, 1896, p. 12, fig. 4; Strong, 
Kidder, and Paul, 1938, pi. 16, fig. 1), of southwestern Honduras and the 
Guatemalan Highlands (Richardson, 1940, p. 406), and of the smaller 
statues of the Boruca area in Costa Rica and the Ulva area in southern 
Honduras and eastern Salvador, though dififering in details of technique 
and dress are nonetheless tenon or peg statues. Some of these from 
Boruca territory, as we have seen, are identical with those of the Ulua 

^' Tetrapod metates have been found in Maya country in the Chultunes of Labna, but this 
appears to be the exception rather than the rule (Gordon, 1896, p. 19). 


The peg apparently is intended as an unseen support in the earth. The 
differences in the pegs, from a blunt roundness to an elongated shaft, 
we consider localized stylizations which developed from a common fun- 
damental idea. The entire statue was usually an architectural feature to 
be used in association with mounds or buildings. 

It is also highly probable that many of the large peg statues were rela- 
tively late, executed by Mexican people or at least' directly influenced by 
them. (For discussion of the time element in connection with these 
statues, see Richardson, 1940, pp. 412-415 ; Kidder II, 1940, pp. 452-454.) 
In the Nicaraguan lake area in particular, where Mexican traits were 
predominant, it is reasonable to accept the view that many of these figures 
were Mexicanized, e.g., the birdman class pointed out by Lothrop (1926 b, 
vol. 1, pi. 7, figs, a-c, and Thompson, 1941, pp. 48-49). 

Stones or boulders with incised designs, often with scrolls similar to 
the curved monkey tails on many of the polychrome vessels in the Sula- 
Ulua and Comayagua Valleys in Honduras and in the Pacific region of 
Nicaragua, occur throughout Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and the Paya region 
of Honduras and are found also in the Lenca area of Honduras and north- 
eastern El Salvador. In Guatemala the petroglyphs that exist in the lake 
district are more elaborate and may be the result of influence of higher 
developed cultures or may have no relationship to the petroglyphs found 
in connection with basic Central American ceramics and stonework. In 
the cave of Labna, however, Central American types are intermingled 
with a few Maya motives (Gordon, 1896). In the Antilles and in north- 
ern South America the Central American type is common (Lothrop, 1926 
b, 1 :94). There is as yet no clue to the significance of these petroglyphs, 
but their spread covers the greater part of the Central American area as 
well as the regions to the south and the north outlined above. At present 
petroglyphs in Central America cannot be assigned to any particular 
culture center. 

Raised burial mounds are found in the Maya and Mexican occupied 
regions, or where Maya or Mexican influence predominated, but are not 
so common in the other zones. In Costa Rica urn burial is most prevalent, 
but on the north coast stone-cist graves are also numerous. In Nicaragua, 
Honduras, and eastern EI Salvador, non-Mayan, non-Mexican burials 
are generally In urns or in caves.^^ Although what might be called a form 
of urn burial (Lothrop, 1933, p. 22) and cave burial (e.g., at Lanquin in 
the Alta Verapaz) has been found in Guatemala, there Is too much chance 
of other cultures such as Maya and Pipil being represented, and the sub- 
ject must wait further investigation. 

" Geologically, few caves exist in Costa Rica. 



Certain ceramic forms and other cultural traits which we feel may well 
have been originally developed in Central America by people of that region 
have been considered as elements of a basic Central American culture. 
Two centers of influence may be localized within the so-called basic cul- 
ture pattern, the Caribbean and Highland groups or centers. The 
Caribbean center seems to have had the wider extension in Central 
America. This greater distribution of the Caribbean type may indicate 
that it was a more potent influence than the Highland culture type. On 
the other hand, influences of the Highland culture center may have 
been obscured by the impact and intermingling of strong Maya and Mexi- 
can characteristics, thereby creating the impression that the Caribbean 
type was a "purer" and more vigorous strain in Central America. 

It is significant that many of the fundamental ceramic traits of these 
two centers of Central American culture occur in northern South 
America, Ecuador, and Peru. The same is true of the petroglyphs dis- 
cussed as a part of the basic Central American complex. Carvings of a 
similar style are common in both northern South America and the An- 
tilles. Stone stools likewise extend into northern South America, but the 
metate as found in Central America reaches its highest development in 
the Caribbean center and disappears as one progresses southward. In 
South America the alter-ego motive occurs in Peru and in the San Agustin 
Valley in Colombia (Sarmiento, 1941, pp. 14, 18). Among the San 
Agustin monuments are several with a serpentlike form tending from the 
mouth and held to the chest of a human figure (ibid., p. 16). In addition 
there is also a raised, slablike headdress which is reminiscent of the Ulva 
and of certain figures of the Boruca and the Guetar regions. Many of 
these massive monuments rest on a very small peg or pedestal base. 

The relative time position of a great many of these South American 
parallels to the basic Central American traits is not known. Where it is 
known, however, it is usually early. The early position of these traits in 
South America checks, roughly, with the relatively early time position of 
the datable, pre-Maya, Playa de los Muertos culture of Honduras. The 
Playa de los Muertos complex shows a greater similarity to an early Peru- 
vian horizon than any other ceramic unit in Central America. 

It is not reasonable to suppose that ancient Peruvians or other northern 
South Americans would have traversed the area of eastern Central America 
northward to the Sula-Ulua and there to have left as a distinct culture 
so many of their traits when elsewhere in Central America there are only 
scattered items. It seems more reasonable that the Playa de los Muertos 
group is a part of, and a specialization out of, an early, widespread inter- 
American cultural horizon. The general cultural uniformity in eastern 
Central America suggests that this early widespread horizon, of which 


the Central American basic cultures were a part, continued through to the 
historic level under relatively static conditions as regards culture change. 
Such a hypothesis, however, should not overlook the fact that undoubt- 
edly more recent South American traits came into Central America as 
the result of trade, or, perhaps, migratory groups. We have not con- 
cerned ourselves with these elements in the above discussion, in order to 
give a more definite idea of the characteristics which are possibly of Cen- 
tral American origin. 


Arango C, 1929; Boyle, 1868; Bransford, 1881; Briceiio-Iragorry, 1928; Brinton, 
1885, 1887, 1895, 1901 ; Butler, 1940; Col. Doc. Ined. Amer. y Oceania, 1864-84; Cortes, 
1908; Fernandez, 1881-1907; Franco Inojosa and Gonzalez, 1936; Gabb, 1886; Gomara, 
1749; Gordon, 1896; Hartman, 1901, 1907; Johnson, 1940; Juarros, 1936; Kidder 
II, 1940; Larde y Larin, 1940; Lehmann, 1910, 1920; Lines, 1935, 1938 a, 1939; 
Lothrop, 1921, 1926 a, 1926 b, 1927 a, 1927 b, 1933, 1937, 1939, 1940; Martyr, 1511; 
Mason, J. A., 1940, 1945 ; Oviedo y Valdes, 1851-55 ; Peralta, 1883, 1901 ; Pittier de 
Fabrega, 1904; Ponce, 1873; Popenoe, 1934, 1936; Popenoe, W., and Orton, 1921; 
Radin, 1919; Richardson, 1940; Rouse, 1939; Roys, 1932; Sapir, 1937; Sapper, 1897 a, 
1907; Sarmiento, 1941; Schuchert, 1935; Schuller, 1928; Spinden, 1915, 1925; Squier, 
1852, 1860 a, 1908; Steward, 1929; Stoll, 1938; Stone, 1934 a, 1934 b, 1940 a, 1940 b, 
1941, 1942, 1943 ; Stone and Turnbull, 1941 ; Stromsvick, 1935 ; Strong, 1925, 1935. 
1940; Strong, Kidder, and Paul, 1938; Thomas and Swanton, 1911; Thompson, 1936, 
1941'; Torquemada, 1723; Vaillant, 1930, 1934, 1940; Vasquez, 1714-16; Verrill, 1927; 
Wauchope, 1941 ; Yde, 1938. 

The Post-Conquest Ethnologry of Central America 


By Frederick Johnson 

Previous to the arrival of the Spaniards the culture of the Indians of 
Central America had been modified by the infiltration both of isolated 
culture traits and of complete complexes. It is probable that some of 
these modifications were forced upon the region by conquests, that is, 
by armies or at least by powerful bands of people. This influence was 
not overwhelming, however, for, regardless of its extent, the innovations 
were American in character and could be assimilated without disrupting 
the major trends of local developments. The Spanish Conquest was 
dififerent, being carried on by means of an unprecedented military organi- 
zation and involving a radically new economic system. Furthermore, its 
expressed intent was to mold the aboriginal culture into a form that could 
be dominated and controlled by Europeans. 

Under Spanish influence a mixed culture developed, consisting of in- 
digenous traits which the Indians could not or would not give up, together 
with a number of traits of foreign origin. Some of the latter were sought 
by the aborigines, for example, metal tools and other articles, which 
replaced the aboriginal ones as fast as the supply permitted. Many 
domesticated crops, especially bananas, sugarcane, rice, coffee, and 
oranges, and animals, particularly pigs and chickens, were quickly 
adopted. Some features, including social and religious concepts, were 
forced upon the Indians. The process of mixing and adjustment was 
not the same everywhere, however ; each tribe reacted in its own peculiar 
manner, and the various Spanish leaders utilized different approaches. 
Moreover, some Indian groups submitted to Spanish domination more 
readily than others. The immediate result was a confusion, which is 
reflected, perhaps, by the contradictory information in the early documents. 
Once a relationship tolerable to both the Spaniards and Indians had been 
established, the progress of acculturation proceeded with less difficulty. 
However, in spite of 400 years of European aggression, some tribes still 
maintain many of the features of their aboriginal cultural tradition. As 
the contact between the Indians, Mestizos, and Whites of Central America 



becomes more intense, these features will be further modified; in fact, 
acculturational changes are now taking place with an impressive rapidity. 

The most striking influence on the Indian culture is that from the 
Spaniards, but Negro elements, to which too little attention has been 
paid, are also present. In the early mid-16th century, African slaves 
escaped from the Spaniards and organized communities as discrete 
enclaves, which promptly established intimate contacts with the Indians. 
The possible effects of the Negroes upon aboriginal culture should not 
be minimized. Another source of cultural influence came from the Carib 
Indians who, in the 18th century, were transported in considerable num- 
bers to the Bay Islands and subsequently migrated to the mainland. 
They are probably responsible for some Central American culture traits 
which have been labeled "West Indian." It is necessary, however, to 
distinguish between West Indian traits that were brought by the Carib 
and those that may have reached Central America before 1700. 

The role which geographic factors played in the development of Central 
American culture was vital, but unfortunately it has not been studied. 
Each cultural division has a few traits of restricted distribution which are 
obviously conditioned by the environment. It was probably in part for 
environmental reasons that the route of invasion taken by Meso-American 
tribes paralleled the Pacific coast and crossed sections of the Highlands. 
The few colonies which the Meso-Americans sent into the Tropical For- 
ests were mere outposts, some of which succumbed to the environment, 
while others, probably under environmental influence, adopted the indige- 
nous culture. The colonies which retained their Meso-American features 
were evidently not established long enough before the Conquest for local 
environmental and cultural influences to have changed them. 

Environment was, however, only one of many factors responsible for 
the distribution of aboriginal culture. Exclusive of the Northern High- 
land and Meso-American Divisions, each culture in Central America is 
distributed over the Tropical Forests, the Pacific Borderlands, and the 
Highlands. Social and political organization are much the same every- 
where. It is these cultures, especially among the tribes of Darien, the 
Talamanca Division, and the tribes of the northern and eastern coastal 
regions of Honduras and Nicaragua, which have a majority of traits of 
South American origin and which seem least affected by the differences 
in environment. They differ from one another only in detail. 

The Spanish Conquest completely disrupted the trend of aboriginal 
events. During the past 400 years some tribes have become extinct and 
new tribes have developed out of the remnants of former organizations. 
Their territory has changed greatly. (Cf. map 5, for the period 1700- 
1900.) It seems possible that geographic factors have become more 
important than at any previous time. When the Spaniards landed they 
had to plunge into the Tropical Forest, an environment which they did 





Map 5. — The contemporary tribes of Central America. (I'reparwJ by Frederick Johnaon.) 


not understand very well. They attempted to subdue the region but they 
were not wholly successful. Through military action and political intrigue 
they were able to conquer some tribes and to obliterate others, but there 
always remained aboriginal nuclei on the flank of their lines of communi- 
cation through the Forests to the Highlands and the Pacific Borderlands. 
In these latter areas the Spaniards found themselves more at home, and, 
in spite of temporary setbacks, the expeditions sent west of Panama City 
and south of ports of entry on the Caribbean were successful. 

After conquering the Highlands and the Pacific Borderlands, the Spanish 
conquistadors transferred their interest from the Tropical Forest to the 
riches of Mexico and Peru, making certain only that areas around the 
ports of entry and lines of communication were safe from any threat from 
the aborigines. The remainder of the Tropical Forest was virtually 
ignored, partially because it was useless to them. The remnant Indian 
groups were thereafter able to preserve their isolation in the Tropical 
Forest. Some tribes had not moved from their native haunts, but many 
others had been shifted about because of the military campaigns and the 
colonizing policies of the Spaniards. Despite the vagaries of history, which 
resulted in contacts of varying intensity with Europeans, these tribes still 
exist as cultural and, to a limited extent, as political entities in the Tropical 
Forest. The very small refugee enclaves and the partially Hispanicized 
Lenca now inhabit the more remote regions of the Highlands, but the bulk 
of the population which retains an Indian culture is found in the Tropical 
Forest and along its inland fringes. 

It is obvious that the preceding hypothetical and speculative observa- 
tions oversimplify a complex development in a region where all features 
are highly variable. Nevertheless, such a statement serves to combine 
possible interpretations of previous sections with the description of specific 
culture traits included in the present section. Before this statement can 
be greatly improved we need more accurate and more comprehensive 
geographic studies and also more detailed studies of the native and mixed 
populations of Central America. This latter includes further research 
into their territory. 

In the following descriptions an attempt has been made to indicate the 
possibilities of such a study. Where feasible, the descriptions of 16th- 
century culture are separated from modern observations. If this were 
done in more detail and for all areas, the course of acculturation over the 
past 400 years would be more clearly brought out. Even as it is, what 
is often called the degeneration of culture is quite apparent. 

Native industries have been choked out by the influx of European goods, 
which were often better suited than native objects for certain purposes. 
The native ceramic industry, once a significant outlet for artistic expres- 
sion, produces only utilitarian wares, and thesp are now made in insufifi- 


cient quantity to meet the demand. Only rarely are ceremonial vessels 
made, and even more rarely are wares decorated. Similarly, the weaving 
industry now produces only distinctly utilitarian fabrics, in contrast to 
the textiles, particularly those made on the Pacific coast, which the Span- 
iards admired. Metallurgy is no longer practiced, even by the descendants 
of tribes which had been most expert. Other industries have similarly 
declined, and only items of definite utility value are now made. In some 
cases, even the latter are no longer identical with the aboriginal ones, 
for they include innovations introduced by Europeans. 

The changes in size and distribution of the population have affected the 
manner of living. Village or community life has taken on certain aspects 
of European tradition. Communal houses have been broken up. Single- 
family houses are now more common, and there is a tendency toward the 
reduction in number of house types. The "el" roofed house with or 
without walls may now be the most common type. These developments 
have had far-reaching effects upon the social customs of practically all 
tribes. The zeal of the missionaries has destroyed much of the ancient 
religion, but the more conservative groups retain many aboriginal features. 
It would be interesting to discover how many Christian and African con- 
cepts have been incorporated into these Indian religions and to determine 
the number and character of the Indian beliefs which have been adopted 
by the Church. 

The present survey and tentative comparisons of early and modern 
culture traits bring to light several hypotheses which merit much future 
study. The aboriginal cultures of the Pacific Borderlands have been 
practically obliterated, and those of the Highlands have been superseded 
by a culture which is largely of Spanish origin. Of extreme interest, 
however, is the strongly Hispanicized culture of such tribes as the Lenca. 
In these a great many aboriginal features are still recognizable. In the 
Tropical Forests the Indians have become restricted to isolated regions, 
but their culture appears to retain much that is aboriginal. The culture 
traits first recorded after the Conquest reveal a number of local cultural 
divisions, but data collected during the past 50 years suggest greater 
homogeneity. The striking fact of the Tropical Forest people is that 
since the Conquest their culture has been simplified or decultured, rather 
than Hispanicized. During the past 400 years the more sophisticated 
aboriginal traits have disappeared ; art, some industries, special costumes, 
the class system which supported a leisure class of nobles, and such are 
gone. The surviving culture is largely that concerned with subsistence 
and utilitarian pursuits, but even these have been modified by Spanish 


By Frederick Johnson 


A satisfactory description of this Division is prevented by the contra- 
dictory and fragmentary nature of the data. The Central American 
culture traits which appear to have originated to the north and west of 
the eastern boundary of Guatemala^ cannot, for various reasons, be 
ascribed with certainty to the tribes which have been identified. 

Ferdinand Columbus and other early explorers of the coasts of Hon- 
duras and Nicaragua describe clothing, ornaments, body decoration, 
weapons, and such which are Meso-American in character, but it is 
questionable whether the Paya, Jicaque, Sumo, and Mosquito possessed 
them. Actually these traits may have occurred only among the enclaves 
of immigrants who came from the lands to the north and west. Or they 
may have diffused into these regions and been adopted by the ancestors 
of the present tribes, who subsequently lost them. Records of Meso- 
American traits in the scattered localities in Central America which were 
not, as far as we know, inhabited by tribes of Meso-American origin 
are difficult to evaluate. These traits may have come through diffusion 
or they may have been actually carried in by small groups of travelers 
or traders. 

The data on identifiable tribes can be treated with more confidence. 
Three groups of tribes living in Central America at the Conquest have, 
through their characteristically Mexican dialects, traditions, and culture 
elements, been identified as immigrants from Mexico (maps 2 and 5). 
On the basis of traditional history, tribes of the Nahuatlan Group have 
been identified either with the T oltec-Chichhnec , speaking the Nahuatl 
language, or with the Asfcc, speaking Nahuatl (Mason, J. A., 1940; John- 
son, 1940) . It is probable that the Toltec-Ckichhnec tribes left Mexico dur- 
ing the 12th-century revolutions and migrations. The Aztec, on the other 
hand, appeared in Central America in the 15th and 16th centuries, having 
been sent out from Mexico on trading and colonizing expeditions. The 
history of the Maribio and Chorotcga Groups is controversial if not ob- 
scure. The languages and some culture traits are closely related to 
those of Mexico. It has been postulated that these two groups of tribes 

1 For a definition of Meso- America, cf. Kirchhoff, 1943. 

9 Kirchhoff (1943) includes the Lenca in his Meso-American area. In the Handbook the Lenca 
are included in Central America, because they have many features which are common to the 
Central American region. The existence and significance of traits suggesting relationships to the 
north and west have not been emphasized. 



represent earlier migrations to the region. Many of the traits of recent 
"Mexican" origin may, however, have developed in South America and 
spread northward, so that the Meso- Americans borrowed certain traits 
before they disseminated them. 

After examining the historical data and making first-hand field observa- 
tions himself, Lothrop (1940, p. 427), commenting on the culture of the 
Nahuatlan Group, exclusive of the Nicarao, says that, "they had abandoned 
anything recognizable as Mexican except their religion and speech and, 
in western Nicaragua and northwestern Costa Rica, some rare polychrome 
pottery patterns. Instead they adopted the manner of living practiced 
by their neighbors, Chorotegan and Talamancan tribes, probably as a 
result of intermarriage. In other words, the southward drift of the 
Nahua [Nahuatlan] from the 12th to 16th centuries did not, so far as 
we know, influence South American culture and by its nature could not 
be expected to do so," To a lesser extent this statement applies also 
to the Chorotegan and Maribio Groups. 

An account of the culture of the Meso- American Groups is hampered 
by the lack of knowledge of the different tribes. With few exceptions, 
available data pertain to the Chorotega and the Nicarao. Oviedo y Valdes 
(1851-55), by far the best source, segregated some of his descriptions 
into these two divisions but all too frequently used the term "Nicaraguan." 
This term may have originated from Nicarao, but certain cultural items 
appear to have been Chorotegan or, perhaps, ascribable to other tribes. 
There is virtually no information on Maribio culture and on most of 
the Nahuatlan settlements. 



Agriculture was highly developed among all these tribes. The slash- 
and-burn type common to the region must have been universally employed. 
The most important of the many crops were maize, cacao, and tobacco. 
Hunting and fishing supplied important additions to the diet. 


Houses of the common people were thatch-roofed. Possibly the tree 
houses found on islands and along rivers were also those of the common 
people. The early writers devoted considerable attention to the "palaces" 
of the kings and nobles. These were composed of several varieties of 
rectangular houses each with a special use and all arranged about a rec- 
tangular plaza. Some had porticos. Temples were structurally similar to 
houses. Both temples and palaces were often built upon low earth mounds. 
Towns consisted of temples and palaces scattered about the countryside, 
each surrounded by houses apparently laid out along streets. Little or 
nothing is said about the location of the houses of the common people. 



Nicarao men wore sleeveless tunics of woven cotton cloth and breech- 
clouts made of a long strip of cloth wound about the body and passed 
between the legs. Sandals were made of deer hide and tied on with straps. 
Women wore skirts reaching to the knees. Women of high rank wore 
ankle-length skirts and "neck-cloths" which covered their breasts. The 
costume of Orotina men was very similar to that of the Nicarao, but the 
former tied a thread to the prepuce. Orotina women were said to wear an 
elaborately decorated breechclout, the ends of which passed over a narrow 
belt and hung down to form small aprons front and back. 

According to Oviedo y Valdes, the Nicarao and the Chorotega took 
great care of their hair. They decorated it in many ways and wore combs 
in it. A man shaved his head in various fashions to indicate his social 
position and his success in battle. Men were said to pierce their tongues 
and ears, and some were said to scarify (?) the penis. Women also pierced 
their ears and wore quantities of necklaces, some of gold beads and 

Body painting and tattooing were common. The followers of the 
caciques bore identifying marks. Elaborate body painting was used on 
ceremonial occasions. Cranial deformation was common. 


Dugout canoes were used, and a type of raft is described. Paddles were 
made by fastening large pearl-oyster shells or pieces of board to the ends 
of a shaft. 


Weaving. — Textiles were made by all tribes. Thread was spun from 
cotton, agave, and palm fibers. The Spaniards greatly prized these tex- 
tiles, particularly those made by the Orotina, who dyed their threads with 
purple obtained from a shellfish {Purpura patula). Mats and hammocks 
were woven of threads made from the coarser fibers. 

Ceramics. — One of the greatest industries was pottery making, which 
the explorers and travelers praised highly. Oviedo mentions particularly 
the black ware made on Chira Island in the Golfo de Nicoya. 

Metallurgy. — Goldworking is mentioned, but it may not have been a 
major industry among the peoples of "foreign origin," i.e., the Meso- 
Americans. The industry is more completely described for tribes of the 
Tala^manca Division. Early records and subsequent archeological work 
indicate that a center of the industry may have been in western Panama 
and southwestern Costa Rica. At any rate there was an extensive trade 
in objects made in this region and also in the raw materials. 



Social organization and marriage. — The social organization of the 
people in Nicaragua was characterized by three hereditary classes, A 
person could improve his status, however, by acquiring wealth. The 
priests, who were usually nobles, were in a class more or less by them- 
selves. "Slaves were usually prisoners of war, and their lot was a hard 
one, for, after a period of toil, they were often sacrificed to the gods and 
eaten" (Lothrop, 1926 b, p, 47). 

According to Oviedo y Valdes (1851-55, bk. 42, ch. 1), marriage among 
the Nicarao might be arranged in several ways. The first is reminiscent of 
the Aztec custom. The fathers of the couple which wished to marry 
agreed to the union and the man's father gave a large banquet. The 
marriage ceremony was performed by the cacique, who joined the fingers 
of the left hands of the couple by slipping a little sheath over them. The 
couple then sat in silence beside a small ceremonial fire until it was 
"consumed," when the marriage was considered sealed. Feasting and 
the presentation of gifts were then in order. Theoretically, a woman 
should remain a virgin until married, and the bridegroom was permitted 
to reject a woman who was not a virgin. 

In a second form of marriage a prostitute might acquire a husband. 
Oviedo implies this to have been characteristic of the Nicarao, but Lothrop 
(1926 b, p. 59) believes that it may have been a Chorotega custom, which 
perhaps was adopted by the Nicarao. If an unmarried woman became a 
prostitute and, despite supporting her progeny, acquired wealth, she 
might build and furnish a house on land obtained from her father and her 
consorts. She then chose one of her consorts for a husband, and after a 
marriage feast the couple lived together as man and wife. This feast was 
sometimes prolonged by the eating of the corpses of the rejected suitors, 
who, having helped provide the house, had committed suicide. 

Nobles were permitted to have one wife and several female slaves. 
Bigamy is not defined, but it was punished by expropriation of property 
and exile. An adultress was beaten and returned to her father, who 
claimed her property. The woman was disgraced; the man was beaten 
by the husband but not otherwise penalized. 

There were a number of general rules, which were possibly Nicarao 
customs, though some may have been Chorotega practices. Marriage was 
permitted with anyone except a member of one's immediately family. 
Intrafamily marriage was encouraged on the grounds that it strengthened 
family ties. A man convicted of rape had to ransom himself from the 
girl's family or become its slave. When a slave had relations with his 
owner's daughter, both lovers were buried alive. The position of women 
seems to have been good. They exercised considerable authority in the 
house, having the power to punish their husbands and to make them pro- 


vide food and perform many household tasks. One of the principal duties 
of the women was to barter and sell the goods, usually in the markets. 

Chorotega customs have not been described sjjecifically. The common 
people were apparently monogamous, but the upper classes might be poly- 
gynous. Orotina caciques had the right of jus primae notis. 

Prostitution was a recognized institution among the Chorotega and 
Nicarao. Also, there were recognized periods of sex license, particularly 
during certain ceremonies. 

Political organization. — There were two types of government among 
these tribes, but the information does not permit a description of the type 
found in each tribe. A democratic form, perhaps characteristic of the 
Chorotega, has been described, particularly by Oviedo y Valdes (1851-55, 
bk. 42, ch. 1 ) . A council of old men was selected by popular vote. It chose 
for its supreme head a "captain general," who acted as chief, particularly in 
war. If he were killed in battle another chief was chosen. Apparently 
the council had considerable power, for it could kill the chief it had elected 
and choose another. This system was so strong that the Spaniards had 
to abolish it. They dissolved the councils and established repartimientos 
governed by appointed caciques, thus creating a sort of feudalism which 
they could control. 

A feudal form of government is also described by Oviedo y Valdes 
(1851-55, bk. 42, ch. 12). Lothrop (1926 b, p. 48) summarizes this : At 
the head of the state was the cacique (called teyte by the Nicarao), who 
probably came by his office through a hereditary-elective system. In addi- 
tion, there was a council (monexicos) composed of various elders 
(guegues), who were elected for a term of four moons. The cacique 
theoretically could not act unless supported by the council, which could 
not meet unless he summoned it. The council appointed various officials, 
presumably from their own number, and these were paid for their services 
in maize, cacao, or mantles. 

The laws of the Chorotega and Nicarao, reported mainly by Oviedo y 
Valdes (1851-55, bk. 42, ch. 3), concerned adjustments made personally 
between an offended person and the criminal. This legal system, as Loth- 
rop (1926 b, p. 63) says, was on a different basis from that of the Astcc, 
among whom "there existed a complicated system of tribunals, each with 
its particular composition and jurisdiction, and the right of appeal to a 
higher court was acknowledged." 


Chorotega and Nicarao commerce centered in the markets. Each town 
had a market in which all commodities, even slaves, were traded. A 
special official enforced all its regulations. Cacao was employed as money 
in the markets as well as outside them, and maize and cotton were also 
bases of exchange. Men were forbidden to enter the market of their 
native towns, for these were run by the women and boys. Strangers, 
however, could enter them to trade. 

204 SOUTH AftlERICAN INDIANS [B.A.E. Bull. 143 


These tribes were continually at war, and the art of warfare was highly 
developed, particularly among the Chorotega and Nicarao. The young 
men were carefully trained and organized in companies which stood 
regular watch and were constantly ready for battle. The principal cause 
of war, said Oviedo y Valdes (1851-55, bk. 42, ch. 3), was boundary dis- 
putes, but the desire to obtain slaves for sacrifice probably also was a motive. 
War was declared through a messenger, who followed standard procedure 
(Lothrop, 1926 b, p. 50). Usually the cacique did not accompany the 
army, a war leader being appointed by the council or by the cacique with 
the approval of the council. 


"Cannibalism was widespread. Although of ceremonial origin, it ap- 
pears that the taste for human flesh had become highly developed, and 
that slaves were bred in captivity for consumption just as any other 
domestic animal might be ; also there is evidence that raids were conducted 
in hope of plunder and high living in the form of human flesh" (Lothrop, 
1926 b, p. 35). 


Two Chorotega and Nicarao games are described. One, voladores, is 
still known in Mexico. The other was a sort of seesaw, two men swinging 
from the end of a beam which revolved upon a horizontal pole, supported 
on two crotched uprights. (Cf. illustrations in Oviedo y Valdes, 1851-55 ; 
also Lothrop, 1926 b, p. 53.) 

Many beverages, some highly intoxicating, were used. Coca mixed 
with lime was chewed, particularly by the Nicarao. 


Religious practices were marked by several types of human sacrifice 
and various observances to celebrate different cults. The Nicarao and the 
Chorotega had a number of gods, each with distinctive attributes. Priests 
formed a special caste and officiated at the ceremonies held at the temples. 
Ceremonies to the various gods celebrated the cacao harvest, the holy days 
in the calendar, and such occasions as birth and death. Various types of 
witchcraft and divination were practiced. 

The mythology of these tribes centered about the gods. There was a 
creation myth, various beliefs concerning the soul and death, and explan- 
ations of several natural events. (Cf. Lothrop, 1926 b, for an excellent 
discussion of religion.) 


Johnson, 1940; Kirchhoff, 1943 ; Lothrop, 1926 b, 1940, Mason, J. A., 1940; Oviedo y 
Valdes, 1851-55. 


By Doris Stone 


The question of the classification of the Lenca language is very im- 
portant. It is known largely through inadequate data published by 
Squier (1858) and Membreiio (1897). According to different authors, 
it is related to South or North American languages or is affiliated with 
unidentified languages, such as the Xinca. Some students have postulated 
that it is unrelated to any known linguistic family. (For a more detailed 
discussion, see Mason, J. A., 1940; Johnson, 1940; Stone, 1941; and 
article on languages in Handbook, Vol. 5.) 

The Lenca area (maps 2 and 5) is marked by a significant variation 
in dialect, physical type, and political, social, and economic organization. 
Each township has characteristics which set it off from its neighbors. 
This heterogeneity obscures the position of the Lenca in relation to the 
rest of Central America. 

The Lenca are being slowly acculturated and absorbed by people of 
Mestizo descent. There is, however, some conservatism which seeks to 
preserve the aboriginal culture, thus increasing the difficulty of adjustment 
to changing conditions. An example of the desire of groups to maintain 
their former cultural habits is found among the Guajiquiro. Formerly 
famed as warriors, they now seek employment in the army or the police 



Farming. — The life of the modern Lenca village centers around the 
milpa. The male members of a family generally spend 5 or 6 days a week 
in a straw hut built near the field. They return bringing food to the 
village at the end of a week. The principal crops, many of them of 
European origin, are maize, wheat (which is threshed with flails), plan- 
tains, "chatos" and fig-bananas, cacao, a little coffee, varieties of gourds, 
sugarcane, vegetable pear, squash, beans (black beans are preferred in 
this section, but various types are planted), a little tobacco, yuca, and 
chili peppers. In certain places, such as Marcala and Santa Elena, oranges 

653334 — 48 15 



are an important crop. Around the town of Intibuca peaches are grown 
in quantities. In parts of El Salvador peanuts are cultivated. (For land 
tenure and working, see pp. 212-213; and for agricultural ceremonialism, 
p. 215.) 

Wild foods. — The chief noncultivated food of the Lenca is the palm. 
The hearts of the royal and suyate palms and the early sprouts of the 
pacaya palm (Chamaedorea sp.) are favorites. Blackberries, wild guaya- 
bos, granadillas, and other fruits are eaten in the season. 

Hunting. — All Highland Indians hunt, either singly or in pairs ; oc- 
casionally larger groups hunt deer. Sometimes dogs are used for pursuing 
deer and jaguars. Generally, however, a man depends only on his bow 
and arrow. Songbirds are caught in cane traps. 

Fishing. — The Lenca are not ardent fishermen. Expeditions to poison 
fish are organized by the town leader, but women are not permitted 
to participate. A river is dammed with stones, and a cane net or funnel 
is placed in an opening of this dam, its mouth facing upstream. The 
poisonous barbasco vine is broken into lengths and thrown into the water. 
The stunned and dead fish come to the surface and are carried by the 
current into the trap. The leader, or his representative, divides the 
catch according to the amount of work performed by each individual. 

Domestic animals. — Dogs, chickens, and a few pigs, ducks, and 
turkeys are the usual possessions. Very rarely the Indian owns a horse 
and a cow, and sometimes the town owns a few head of cattle. In Inti- 
buca particularly, goats and some sheep are raised. 

Food preparation. — Generally food is boiled in pots placed on a 
hearth built of three stones. Very rarely a clay oven is found outside 
the house, either incorporated in the house wall or built separately. New 
metates have three short feet, but the highly prized old metates brought 
from ancient sites have four and even five legs. Some metates are 
simply boulders having a slightly concave surface. The manos vary in 

The most important foods are maize, salt, chili, and beans. Salt is 
believed to come from the sun, which the Lenca still hold sacred. Chilis 
are supposed to give strength and to act as a purgative and a stimulant. 
Whenever a Lenca departs on a journey he carries chilis mixed with 
tortillas or tamales. 

Food is eaten from calabashes or from the vessel in which it was 
cooked. It may be wrapped in a tortilla or in a flat maize cake. Essential 
to every meal are tortillas and rounded tamales (also called totapostes), 
which are made of maize or of maize and chili, wrapped in shucks, and 
roasted in the ashes of the hearth. Steamed whole ears of roasted maize 
and beans are staples. These are supplemented by yuca, bananas, plantains, 
squash, and the other produce of the farm and forest. Boiled or raw eggs 
are eaten, and on rare occasions fowl is wrapped in banana leaves and 

Vol. 4] 



boiled or roasted in the ashes. Meat and fish are generally cut into 
strips, dried and smoked. 

Food storage. — Selected ears of ripe maize in the husk are carefully 
piled to the ceiling in a corner of a room. These last from one season 
to another. In sections of the Department of Intibuca, maize kernels 
are kept in a perpendicular, hollowed log, which is covered with a thick 


The villages are laid out as any modern Honduran town. A "cabildo," 
which is usually distinguishable by the wooden fence and gate around 
the porch, often serves both as the "commandancia" and the house of 
the local authority. All Lenca towns have churches. 

The typical Lenca village house is made of adobe and has a roof thatched 
with straw or grass or, rarely, covered with tiles. Infrequently, walls 
are made of wooden slabs. The most modern houses in the larger towns 
are built of adobe and have tile roofs. The average dwelling has one 
room, with a front porch that is open on the sides but covered by an 
extension of the roof supported by three vertical wooden posts (fig. 48). 

Figure 48. — Lenca house. 


Often, especially when the roof is tile, two additional wooden posts are 
placed at corners of the house in the adobe and at the inner edge of 
the extension over the porch. In certain settlements, for example, Santa 
Elena, there is a porch at the rear, which is sometimes used as a kitchen. 
The houses are generally very low (a mounted man can reach the edge 
of the roof). The foundation of the adobe house is a low stone wall 
plastered with mud. The wall consists of cane or wooden poles set 
vertically upon this foundation. These vertical poles are laced with 
horizontal poles or cane and plastered with mud, which generally con- 
tains some gravel. Some of the wooden or cane supports protrude on 
the outside. In making the roof, dried grass or straw is tied to a frame- 
work of cane or poles. Dirt floors are usual, except that the porch 
floor may be covered with cobblestones. 

Household furniture. — In the colder regions the hearth is in the center 
of the room; elsewhere it is in a corner or by a side wall. Beds or 
shelves are made of wooden frames interlaced with vines and hung from 
the ceiling by vines. They serve many purposes. The wealthy Indians 
make frame beds of woven vines supported on sticks and covered with 
skins. In most houses the family sleeps on the floor around the fire. 

Calabashes are hung on forked sticks, which are stuck in the walls or 
tied to the shelves. On the floor are the metate, a small pile of firewood, 
the maize granary, and very occasionally a stool. Frequently, a wooden 
cross is attached on the outside of the house to the wall or roof to keep 
off the evil spirits. 


Clothing. — Lenca dress is highly variable. About 1925, in the villages 
of Chinacla and Guajiquiro, Department of La Paz, the women had one 
type of costume for daily use and another for ceremonial occasions. The 
latter was given to a bride-to-be by her future husband who purchased 
it in Guatemala, generally in Esquipulas. It consisted of a white huipil, 
a blue skirt with white or red lines forming large squares, and a red 
or multicolored belt. It was worn with a quantity of coin and bead 
necklaces (M. Bonilla, ms.). 

This costume is no longer worn. The modern dress everywhere is 
generally an Indian version of the 19th-century Spanish Colonial style. 
In the Departments of La Paz and Intibuca many villages still retain their 
distinctive local style. Trade with El Salvador has stimulated continual 
changes, however, so that there exists much local freedom in the details 
of dress. In Guajiquiro, for example, the women wear wide, gay colored 
skirts with contrasting vertical rows of colored cloth, which are repeated 
on the blouse. They grease their hair and wear a multitude of silver 
rings and bead necklaces, often with coins. The men wear dark jackets 
and pants and, whenever they can afford it, felt hats. On feast days 

Vol. 4] 



some add plaits of junco, a palm-leaf fiber, as hatbands, and varicolored 
ribbons and feathers (M. Bonilla, ms.). 

FiGtTRE 49. — Lenca woman's dress, Santa Elena. 

The dress of Opatoro women is always very bright, with a preference 
for red and yellow. The blouse has a series of vertical bands of con- 
trasting colors coming in two lines and reaching from the upper part 
of the breast to the waist, where they almost meet. This gives the effect 
of a bodice, the intervening space between the two lines being filled with 
horizontal bands also of contrasting colors. A yokelike collar, about 3 
or 4 inches (7.5 to 10 cm.) wide, of the same color as the blouse encircles 
the garment, leaving a space between the beginning of the breast and the 
neck. The dress continues upward and ends in a narrow band a little 
above the start of the throat, giving to the whole the appearance of an 
old-fashioned guimpe. The artificial guimpe has vertical bands of con- 
trasting colors. The sleeves are three-quarters length with two horizontal, 
colored bands below the elbow and a sort of drooping flounce for a cuff. 
The skirt is wide, with colored bands at the top of a bottom flounce. 

The Opatoro women wear their hair in long braids, into which are 
plaited many gay-colored ribbons, and stick a number of combs set with 
cheap glass stones in their hair. These combs are bought in El Salvador 
by the men. The men use pants and shirts of drill, both of the same 


color and generally with a narrow blue stripe. They carry a machete 
at their belt. The Santa Elena women wear the kind of dress shown in 
figure 49. The skirt is rolled at the waist and is worn higher in the front 
than in the back. The blouse has a small peplum, almost like a bustle 
in the rear. The Yarula dress is fairly similar to that of Santa Elena, 
differing only in a small detail at the neck which ends in a narrow pro- 
trusion like a dickey. The skirt has two rows of inverted V's on the 
bottom. All Lenca women are very fond of silver rings, usually made oi 
melted coins, quantities of necklaces of beads and coins, and charms, both 
the typical church scapulas and those they make themselves of gay-colored 
thread. These charms supposedly have power to ward off evil. On their 
heads they wear bright silk shawls, in the manner of the non-Indian 
women. On special occasions they put a man's hat decorated with a 
band of ribbon on top of this shawl. 

Sandals differ slightly throughout the region. The most common style 
has a strap between the fourth and the big toe. However, horizontal straps 
across the toes are frequently seen. A type which comes from Marcala 
and Santa Elena (pi. 33, top) has an outer rim as well as buckles all 
around the foot. This type is not usual in the more isolated communities. 


Trails. — True Lenca country is very wild and grand, with steep rugged 
mountains, the highest in Honduras. The trails follow the mountain 
crests with their numerous outcroppings of limestone bedrock and less 
frequently of volcanic tuffs. The protruding limestone rock, tall pines, 
and scarce underbrush make travel in the wet season very difficult, for 
the large rock layers tend to be slippery, and the land washes away 
quickly. The trails throughout the Lenca country are cut into the out- 
croppings in such a manner as to permit the passage of men and animals. 
It is impossible to know if these were in use before the Spanish Conquest, 
but they are found on the modern Lenca trails, even on those not intended 
for beasts of burden. 

Carrying devices. — In the Lenca area both sexes carry objects in a net 
bag (pi. 33, bottom), which is supported by a tumpline or swung over 
one shoulder. The size of the bag varies according to need. Babies are 
carried on the back in a shawl. Commonly, a woman carries a net bag 
loaded with wood and, on top of it, a child in a shawl. Sometimes large 
hide sacks are carried by the men. 

The Lenca travel on foot. In the more isolated sections the laboring 
men, who make long journeys laden like beasts of burden, practice the 
old custom of tying stones to their toes in order to enlarge their feet. It 
is believed that large feet improve their grip on the rough and steep trails. 
Rarely the Lenca ride horseback using saddles made of a single piece of 


leather and wooden stirrups copied from the 16th-century Spanish types. 
The few horses which belong to the Indians are not broken to the bit but 
are ridden with a rope halter. 


Basketry. — Baskets are made of pine needles and of cafia brava, a 
wild cane. Certain villages, e.g., Chinacla, are famous for their baskets. 
There is no shape or size peculiar to the Lenca. Many baskets are copied 
from gourds ; others are smaller and have either separate covers or covers 
attached to the handles. Sometimes the baskets are colored, the cane 
being dyed before weaving. Cochineal, achiote, and indigo are the prin- 
cipal tints employed. These are found either wild in the forest or, espe- 
cially cochineal, are brought from El Salvador. Some of the Lenca make 
hats of leaves, generally of the suyate palm, cut into strips, braided and 
sewed together. 

Weaving and cordage. — The Lenca are said to have woven cloth in 
the past century, but today the industry has disappeared. Cordage for 
net bags and such is made from the fiber of the suyate palm, pinuela, and 
maguey. The fibers are spun with wooden whorls operated by two per- 
sons who stand 10 to 30 yards apart. Netting needles are made of bam- 
boo, wood, or palm. Rope is made from the same material as the thread, 
the suyate palm-leaf fiber being in most demand for ropes used in house 
construction. Rope is also made of twisted hide. 

Skin preparation. — The Lenca have always used the skins of wild 
animals. In the past century, jaguar, watusso, and deer skins served as 
the dress of many men. Today skins are frequently worn as an apron 
or are used for blankets or bedding. In certain isolated villages they are 
slung over the shoulders as a cloak or shirt. Skins of wild animals as 
well as of cows are scraped, then stretched and dried in the sun. No 
curing agent is used. 

Pottery. — The women make coiled pottery. The favorite shape is a 
rounded jug or bulge-bowl with two handles. Modern painted pottery 
is not of aboriginal origin. A few vessels are colored, either solidly or 
half one color, half natural. The paint is of foreign manufacture and 
comes from El Salvador or Tegucigalpa. Pots are fired in kilns built 
into the earth and rising only slightly above the surface. The vessels are 
covered with large slablike broken pieces of baked clay and are fueled 
with wood. 

Gourds. — Gourds of certain types are not only eaten but are utilized as 
water jugs, as models for baskets, and even as masks for dances. For 
a water jug the gourd is cleaned through a perforation in the top, and 
most of the seeds and pulp are extracted. Pebbles or earth with pebbles 
are then put inside it, and, after drying in the sun, it is shaken so that the 
stones and earth rub the sides clean. 


Fire making. — Fire is made by striking together two white or hard 
stones so that the sparks fall on dry cotton, which is carried in a short 
hollowed stick or on dried leaves and pine needles. 

Candles are made from the wild waxplant {Myrica cerijera), a common 
forest weed. The berries are crushed and boiled, and the residue is 
placed in wooden molds with a fiber wick. 

Starch. — A yuca starch is used by the Indians for medical purposes, 
such as plasters, and is sold to non-Indian towns for stiflfening clothes. 
The root is peeled, ground very fine on the metate, and sun-dried on a 
hollowed plank or log until it is gummy. 

Weapons. — The long bow is of palm wood. The arrows are relatively 
short. "Killing" arrows have an iron point, 3^ to 4^ inches (about 9 
to 11 cm.) long. "Stunning" arrows have rounded cork-shaped wooden 
butts reinforced with iron bands and very small protruding iron knobs 
at the ends. The primary arrow release is used. Quivers are narrow 
hide cylinders. 


Formerly, each Lenca community maintained its integrity in its relation- 
ship to other towns and was strictly endogamous. The cacique and the 
council (casicasgo) controlled the village land. This council was com- 
posed of the cacique, the curandero (called in many places inteligente), 
the priest or soothsayer (called hechicero, "witch"), and the town elders. 
It officiated in all disputes involving the town. When an intertown prob- 
lem arose the council of each town met and clarified its position, after 
which the two councils met together to settle the matter. If no agree- 
ment could be reached, the towns went to war. In 1888 disputes concern- 
ing the location of the town boundaries of Santa Elena (the ancient 
Jocoara), Opatoro, Poloros, and Arambala arose. The councils of the 
towns could not reach an agreement and war ensued. The Honduran 
Government intervened, and now these and nearly all other towns have 
their own legal title to land. 

The town, though modified by European influences, is practically the 
only vestige of the ancient tribal organization. In certain towns the 
cacique still inherits his office ; in others he is elected. The village, not 
the individual, owns the land, but its distribution varies with each settle- 
ment. In some villages the local authorities, such as the alcalde and the 
jefe politico, give the allotments ; in others, the village elders with the 
alcalde; in a few, the cacique; and in still others, as in Guajiquiro, the 
land is communal, that is, it is worked by the town without dividing it 
into separate portions. 

In the cases of communal farming the cacique distributes the produce 
of the town. What is not consumed locally is saved for trade, which the 

Plate 33. — Lenca manufactures. Top: Santa Elena and Marcala type sandals. 
Bottom: Net carrying bag. (Courtesy Doris Stone.) 

Plate 34. — Lenca Indians. Top: Typical Intibucd fences. Bottom: Wearing a 
gourd mask at dance of festival of the patron saint of the town. (Courtesy 
Doris Stone.) 


cacique controls. The amount of land given to a person is counted in 
tareas — approximately the amount of land one man can work in a day. 
Four to eight tareas per man is the usual allotment. When the soil grows 
poor the Indian complains to the authorities and proves that he needs 
another piece. The land is cultivated by the individual with the help of 
his sons. In some places, as around Opatoro, laborers are assigned to 
work with him. 

The structure of the aboriginal class system has been modified almost 
beyond recognition. There appears still to be an upper and a lower class 
The first includes the cacique, his immediate family, and the council mem- 
bers and their families. The lower class is composed of the laborers, who 
seem to take no part in the running of the village affairs. 

Personal property excludes land, but consists of one's house and its 
contents and livestock. In general, a widow retains her husband's prop- 
erty and deeds it over to the son when he is 18 years old, though she may 
retain the house. If there are no sons, the property goes to the deceased's 
oldest brother. If there is no brother, the council assigns the property 
to the nearest male relative. 

A woman who commits adultery may be killed by her husband, but the 
man involved is not punished. Criminals are forced by the council to 
work 2 or 3 days without food. 


Cannibalism was rarely practiced by the Lenca. On rare occasions the 
heart of an enemy was eaten in order that the enemy's valor might be 
acquired. Such practices are now forbidden by the Honduran authorities. 


Childbirth. — Lenca childbirth involves little ceremony. A woman 
delivers her child into a bed of leaves on the floor of the house, using a 
stooping position during delivery. She may give birth alone, cutting the 
cord with a bamboo or steel knife and burning it, or her husband may cut 
the cord. In cases of prolonged labor, her husband or another woman 
may burn certain leaves under her. This simple ceremony is called 

Very infrequently today the old custom of providing the newborn with 
a "nagual" is practiced. The maternal grandmother presents the baby 
with an animal, such as a snake, frog, or toad, and with chicha, maize, 
beans, and other foodstuffs. The "nagual" is, or was, an important quasi- 
religious object which the child always kept, even taking it to bed. 

Pregnant women are believed to possess extraordinarily strong eyes, 
that is, their own combined with those of the fetus. They are not allowed 


to witness the birth of either human beings or animals, for these eyes are 
reputed to kill the newborn. 

Marriage. — Girls marry when they are between 12 and 14 years of 
age, boys between 14 and 18. Marriages are usually prearranged by the 
parents of the couple, although there is no set rule. When the boy does 
the courting, he throws pebbles at his prospective sweetheart when she is 
washing clothes by a stream or bathing and leaves a load of wood in front 
of her house. If the girl and her family approve the match, they bring 
the wood into the house. At the age of puberty the boy lives with his 
family-in-law-to-be for several months or longer, while the girl lives with 
the boy's family. If the parents approve of the boy and girl, the latter 
returns to her parents' house and lives with the boy. Should this period 
of trial marrage turn out satisfactorily, it may be terminated and the 
marriage made permanent by a feast and merrymaking. Otherwise both 
parties are free to separate and choose other mates. Usually the newly 
married couple stays with the girl's family for 1 or 2 years before estab- 
lishing a home for themselves. The Lenca are polygynous, and a family 
head may have three or four wives. When a man is through with a 
woman he may arrange for her to live with her children in a separate 
house, but he is responsible for her food. 

Death. — When a man dies his widow walks around the house moaning 
and singing for 1 day. A feast is held, and quantities of chicha are drunk 
for 9 days. Formerly, the deceased was placed on one of the hanging beds 
or shelves throughout the merrymaking, but the law now requires burial 
on the day of death. Feasting, drinking, and sometimes music may, how- 
ever, go on for the full 9 days. 


Masks and dances. — Calabash masks are painted, but wooden masks 
are not. The latter are very simply carved, and human teeth are added to 
them. Occasionally they are named, e.g., in Intibuca one mask is called 
'*Capitan Mayor." All masks are used in ceremonial dances, which are 
performed by the councilmen, generally at the festival of the patron saint 
of the town (pi. 34, bottom). Sons learn the dance steps from their 
fathers. The hechicero is in charge of the ritual which accompanies the 
dancing. Marcelina Bonilla (ms.) describes a dance at Santa Elena in 
which the men wore feathered caps over their painted calabash masks and 
cotton clothes (manta) — a shirt and pants with a cow's tail sewed to them. 
The dancers circled, the steps being interspersed with much knee bending. 
In another dance of the same village a large lancelike stick is thrown into 
the air and caught with much dexterity, mimicking, and contortion. In 
some dances, such as those in Intibuca, flags are carried, as well as tall 
bastions of the church with small silver crosses on the ends. 


Musical instruments. — Lenca drums are of wood with hide heads, 
which are tuned with quills. Bamboo flutes have three or four stops. 
Rattles are made of gourds attached to a stick. 

Alcoholic beverages. — Chicha, an intoxicating drink made from maize, 
is supposedly purifying and ritualistic. The kernels are boiled with water 
and brown sugar in a clay pot, which is then covered with a cloth and 
left to ferment. The excrement of goats or sheep wrapped in a rag may be 
added after fermentation has begun in order to strengthen its flavor. This 
custom, however, is slowly disappearing. In parts of El Salvador chicha 
may be flavored with peanuts, and in Honduras with pineapple peelings. 


Many Lenca, although nominally Catholic, still retain certain aboriginal 
beliefs. Sacred mountains and hills, considered as holy places in pre- 
Conquest times, now have wooden crosses on their summits. The 
Lenca still have a profound respect, or even adoration, for the sun. 

Their life, which depends on agriculture, is marked by periodical offer- 
ings to the seasons or to the crops. Planting and harvesting ceremonies 
are celebrated throughout the Lenca area. When it is time to clear the 
land, chicha is drunk, copal is burned to the four directions, and straw or 
corn-shuck crosses are put in the centers of the fields. At sowing time 
chicha is drunk, copal is burned, and bonfires are built outside the fields. 
Drunkenness is explained by the belief that chicha purified the soul and 
expels bad thoughts. The soul is thus purified for the sacred business of 
planting. Throughout the Lenca country men abstain from sexual inter- 
course at this time. They stay at the milpas, and women live in the towns. 
When maize is in the silk, copal is burned and chicha is drunk. At this 
time also the women are forbidden to visit the milpa, for it is feared that 
they might contaminate the crops. 

When the fields are harvested and it is time to divide the produce, 
masked men dance around the piles of grain to the music of drums, rattles, 
and whistles. Offers of food are made to the sun. The hechicero is in 
change of this ceremony. At this time he promises the cacique to defend 
the council. 

Many of these Highland Indians make a yearly pilgrimage on April 24, 
the day of San Caspar, the patron of Taubelve, to Taubelve in the rela- 
tively low hills south of Lake Yojoa. There is not much doubt that this 
visit has its roots in pre-Conquest days. Taubelve is supposed to mean in 
Lenca "House of the Tiger" (Squier, 1858). Here many years ago a 
cache of what may have been pre-Colombian copper bells was discovered 
in a cave. The Lenca go to mass at the nearby church of La Mision and 
then visit the cave, where they hold their own secret communion with the 
spirits within. They remain 2 to 4 days at Taubelve, sleeping in the roads 
and fields or wherever they can and drinking great quantities of chicha. 


In all Lenca communities the most sacred day of the year is that of the 
patron saint of the village. Often the saint is carried on a visit to the 
patron of a friendly neighboring town. Such excursions are always the 
occasion for heavy chicha drinking by both sexes, for dancing by the men 
under the leadership of the hechicero, and usually for feasting. 


The shaman (inteligente or curandero) occupies an important place in 
the life of the village. He is charged with the curing of the sick through 
both ritual means and the application of practical remedies. When he 
has a patient to be cured he offers white chickens and copal at the crosses 
on the sacred hilltops, after which he returns to the ailing person and gives 
him certain curative drinks. 

Formerly some soothsayers were women. They prophesied the future 
by throwing different-colored beans from calabashes as one would throw 

Certain general cures are usually given by the inteligente, but others may 
be prepared by anyone. For indigestion every portion of the body is 
massaged, pulled, and stretched. For fevers the patient is wrapped in as 
much cloth as possible to produce sweating, or a cure called ruda is 
administered. Certain leaves are heated and rubbed on the sick person. 
Excrement, burned to a powder, is sometimes taken internally. Of the 
many plants and herbs used as medicine by the Lenca, the most popular 
ones are listed below : 

Hoja del aire {Bryophyllum pinnatunt). The leaves are boiled and taken for colic. 
Malba and pavana. The leaves of these low bushes are covered with oil and placed 

on afflicted parts in order to reduce inflammation. 
Tuna, or nopal. The leaves of this member of the cactus family are rubbed with oil 

or grease, heated, and then used as a plaster for cases of colic. 
Siguapate. The leaves of tliis bush ara placed on the forehead to cure headache. 
Pasote and ipacina. A tea made of the leaves of this plant combined with manzanilla 

and a variety of mint is used as a vermifuge. 
Grama, maize milk, and canafistola (Cassia sp.). Teas made of these are used to cure 

kidney trouble. 
Sauco (usually Salix chilensis). An infusion of the leaves and flowers of this 

willow is set in the sun for 2 days and used to cure coughs. 


Herrera y Tordesillas (1730, vol. 3) recorded a legend of a goddess 
named Comicahual. The tale is still told around Puringla and Guajiquiro, 
but the name of the deity has been modified to Comitzahual. 

In certain communities, such as Opatoro, the belief is held that people 
can change themselves into animals and back again into people. The 
inhabitants claim that this has actually happened to a woman from this 


village. They say she turned herself into a pig, and the whole town, 
infuriated, kicked her and beat her, as a pig, until she was black and blue. 
The pig ran into the forest and changed back to the woman, who was 
found the next day in her house, bruised from head to foot. 


Ordinary products are measured by baskets, which carry the equivalent 
of 4 pounds. This is the standard medium in the interior of Honduras, 
and the Lenca do not use any other measure. Time is measured by the 
amount necessary to accomplish a certain task (tarea) and is stated in 
terms of tareas and fractions thereof. Space is measured by the distance 
that can be covered in a day's walk, but the Spanish measure, vara (32 
inches), is also used in certain places for smaller distances. 

The year is divided into 54 moons and has 336 days. It is divided into 
the seasons of sowing, harvesting, preparing the soil, the time of the 
appearance of the young corn, the blossoming, etc. Each of these periods 
has its own meaning and is often celebrated by ceremonies held in the 


Bancroft, 1890, vol. 3; M. Bonilla, ms. ; Herrera y Tordesillas, 1730; Johnson, 
1940; Juarros 1808-18 (1936) ; Lehmann, 1920; Lothrop, 1939; Mason, J. A., 1940; 
Membreno, 1897; Milla y Vidaurre, 1879-1919; Palacio (in Squier, 1860 a) • 
Pedraza (in Col. Doc. Ined., 1898-1900) ; Ponce, 1873 ; Relacion Breve y Verdadero 
(see Alonso de San Juan, 1873) ; Relaciones de Yucatan, 1898-1900; Squier, 1858, 
1859, 1860 a, 1869, 1870; Stoll, 1938; Stone, 1940 b, 1941; Torquemada, 1615 (1723) ; 
Vasquez, 1714-16. 


By Paul Kirchhoff 


The modern Paya and Jicaque enclaves in the Caribbean Lowlands may 
not all be the descendants of the people so named by the first explorers 
(maps 2 and 5). It is possible that the culture of the people first dis- 
covered on the coast was similar to that from which the present-day 
Mosquito and Sumo culture has evolved, although the north coast prob- 
ably had culture traits that differed significantly from those of the Mos- 
quito and Sumo. It is impossible to describe the post-Conquest changes 
of the culture of the Paya and Jicaque. It seems reasonably certain, how- 
ever, that during the past 400 years the east coast people and the people 
now known as the Paya and Jicaque have converged culturally. We can, 
then, describe these peoples as a unit, although hypothetically their cul- 
tures have developed out of the ruins of a more complex aboriginal 

Less important but significant features of the culture may be ascribed 
to the contact with the Black Carib Indians, who were brought to the 
Bay Islands in 1796 and whose descendants have settled on the mainland. 
The importance of the early Negro influence has already been noted. 



Farming. — A type of slash-and-burn agriculture is employed by all 
tribes. Every season the men clear new farmlands and burn the slash. 
Planting and cultivating is done with a digging stick. This is woman's 
work, except among the Jicaque (Von Hagen, 1943), and the women 
also harvest the crops. Some fields have combinations of crops, such as 
maize, beans, and peanuts ; others are reserved for single crops, especially 
the tubers. 

A list of agricultural products may be found below. Sweet manioc, 
an important Mosquito crop, is grown by all tribes. Bitter manioc, prob- 
ably introduced by the Carib, is important to some Paya and Jicaque. 



Maize is believed to be unimportant except in the higher lands, e.g., among 
the Ulva. The Jicaque grow it as a commercial crop but do not use it 
extensively as food. Pineapples are important to the Paya. Chili peppers 
and opuntia, the latter used for raising cochineal, a dye-producing insect, 
appear to be recent introductions. Plants introduced by the Europeans 
vary in importance, but plantain is now one of the most basic foods of 
the region. Quantities of wild foods of all kinds form an important part 
of the diet. 

Hunting. — The bow and arrow was once important to many tribes but 
has been partially or wholly replaced by the gun. The bow has not been 
reported from the Corn Islands. Spears or javelins were formerly used 
for hunting. Slings, traps, and snares were used prinicipally for birds. 
For the blowgun, see page 224. 

List of Foods Grown by the People in the Caribbean Lowlands : 

American origin : Avocado. 

Sweet manioc. Guava. 

Bitter manioc. Chirimoya. 

Maize. Zapote. 

Pejivalle (pejibaye) palm. Coconut. 

Sweetpotato. Usi. 

Eddoe (tania). Ficus. 

Gourd. Yam. 

Pumpkin. Opuntia. 

Squash. Peanuts. 
Chayote. Foreign Origin : 

Tomato. Rice. 

Bean (red and black). Sugarcane. 

Pineapple. Coflfee. 

Tobacco. Mango. 

Cotton. Breadfruit 

Achiote (Bixa orellana). Tamarind. 

Cacao. Citrus fruits. 

Pataste. Plantain. 

Papaya. Banana. 

Hunting is exclusively a male occupation. Communal hunts lasting 
several days and hunting by torchlight have been reported. Dogs are 
used frequently to chase the game. Hunters may imitate the calls of 
animals, sometimes using bone whistles. 

Fishing. — Women fish with hooks, which were originally made of bone. 
Men fish in groups of varying sizes. Fish are shot with the bow and 
arrow, speared with single- or multipronged spears, taken with traps 
of various types, or frightened so that they jump into canoes. Torches 
are used at night to attract the fish. Fish are poisoned by parties of 
men. Women and men whose wives are pregnant or menstruating can- 
not join such expeditions {Jicaque). Rotenone-bearing plants are crushed 
in the water above a weir from which the stupefied fish are removed. 


Harpoons with floats attached are used for large fish and for manatees, 
the latter being taken in the lagoons and at sea. Harpoons with long 
retrieving lines but without floats are used for sea turtles. The Sumo 
lasso young crocodiles. 

Domesticated animals. — No early source mentions dogs, but they are 
now common. Pigs, sheep, goats, cattle, horses, and cats have been 
introduced. The people tame a great variety of wild birds and several 
species of mammals. The latter are even suckled by the women. Species 
of native bees are kept in hives near the houses. 

Food preparation. — Food may be boiled, sometime^ in coconut milk. 
Meat and fish are broiled or roasted in hot ashes, and fish may be fried 
in coconut oil. The Paya fry green pineapple. Salt is used as a condi- 
ment but rarely as a preservative. Sauces of red peppers, lime, and salt 
are made by the Mosquito. The Paya use chili as a sauce or as a substi- 
tute for other food. Tamales are made of manioc. Maize dough, some- 
times soured (Mosquito), is wrapped in leaves and baked. This and 
manioc dough may be made into tortillas, an item introduced into the 
region only in recent years. Manioc is made into bread, which is baked 
in the open fire. 

Numerous beverages are made of liana sap, maize, honey, green plan- 
tains, and the like. Some of these are made of a sour paste, which is diluted 
with water before it is eaten. Such food is usually carried while traveling. 
Alcoholic beverages are prepared in canoes (Mosquito) or log troughs 
(Paya) and stored in earthenware pots. Fermentation is hastened in 
various ways, notably by chewing uncooked or cooked maize or manioc 
and spitting it into the mixture. 

Preserving and storage of food. — Fish is dried in the sun and meat 
is dried on a three-legged babracot. The Mosquito make a mixture of 
green bananas and pejibaye palm nuts which may be kept for 6 months 
or longer. It can be made into a beverage or baked as bread. The 
Sumo preserve boiled maize by steeping it in lye to remove the hull and 
then burying it. The Sumo also make up large parcels of maize or 
peeled bananas, which are placed in running water until partially fer- 
mented, then dried in the sun. Live turtles are kept in stockades in 
shallow water. 


Mosquito villages (pi. 35, bottom) had between 100 and 500 inhabitants. 
Sumo villages appear to have been much smaller. Formerly, communal 
houses, called "palenques," had compartments for each family. Some 
were about 40 by 80 feet (about 12.5 by 25 m.) ; smaller communal houses 
were built by the Mosquito. Sumo houses had an elaborately carved 
central post. House plans were rectangular, the ends being rounded, 
elliptical (Paya), or circular (Mosquito of Honduras). At the present 

6S3334 — 48 16 


time rectangular houses with a hip roof used by single families are built. 
The steep roof, thatched with palm leaves, was supported on posts. All 
houses have walls about 4 feet (1.3 m.) high. Lofts for storing food 
and for sleeping are made by laying split bamboo sticks across the beams. 
Household furniture consists of mattresses of bark or deerskin, plat- 
form beds (Paya and Northern Sumo), sitting hammocks, wooden chests, 
three- or four-legged stools, and a notched-post ladder. Fires are built 
of three logs on slightly raised mud platforms inside the houses. Stored 
near these are cooking pots, bamboo tongs used to remove food from 
the fire, gourd containers and colanders, wooden spoons, ladles, and 
sections of bamboo used to haul water and to store beverages. 


Bark cloth was formerly the most common fabric, but it is now being 
replaced by cotton cloth, usually obtained by trade. Native cotton cloth 
was used largely for ceremonial and festive occasions. The Mosquito 
made blankets and clothing of palm fiber. 

The male costume consists of a breechclout and poncho. The latter 
is tied under the arms and secured around the waist with a belt. Every- 
one went barefoot, but occasionally Paya men wore tapir-hide sandals 
and Mosquito men moccasinlike footgear. Women wore a knee-length, 
wrap-around, bark-cloth skirt, but the upper part of their bodies was nude. 
Children went nude until they were 8 or 10 years old, when they adopted 
a breechclout {Sumo, Mosquito, Paya). Sumo chiefs used a long tunic 
and a sash, apparently made of cotton. It was dyed and embroidered 
with crane feathers. These costumes, or modifications of them, are still 
worn by the more conservative tribes, but commercial cloth is becoming 
more common and European styles are being adopted. 

Men cut their hair short, but occasionally elder men left a lock at 
the back of the crown {Mosquito). In about 1850 the Sumo tied their 
hair into a queue, which was oiled or greased ; at present they cut it short 
with bangs over the forehead. A crude comb was made of sticks tied 
together. Women cut the front hair in bangs allowing the rest to hang 
freely. The men attached feathers to their hair but women decorated 
theirs with flowers and colored bands. At time of mourning the hair 
is cut off short. Both sexes devote considerable attention to their hair. 

Nose pins and lip and ear ornaments of gold or turtle shell were worn. 
The Mosquito hung shell or brass plates from the lower lip. Conical 
or bell-shaped lip or chin ornaments were worn by the Kukra. Wooden 
plugs worn in the ear lobes were common. On festive occasions the 
Mosquito and Sumo wore either a cotton headband decorated with feathers 
or a cap made of bamboo decorated with feathers and with long, painted, 
bark-cloth streamers. The Mosquito hung metal or shell plaques and 
ornaments made of bone and feathers about their necks. Sumo women 


wore tight cotton bands below the knees and above the ankles. Today 
woven bands of glass beads are worn around the neck, wrists, and ankles. 
Straw hats are decorated with feathers and jaguar teeth (Mosquito, Paya). 
Black paint is smeared over the body by the men (Sumo, Mosquito. 
Paya) as a decoration and for protection from insects. Geometrical de- 
signs are drawn in red paint, mainly by the women. The Sumo, Mosquito, 
and Paya tattooed geometrical designs upon the face, arms, and breast. 
The Sumo men made ornamental scars on their faces and chipped their 
teeth. All Sumo tribes except the Baivihka practiced head deformation. 
During infancy a folding flap of wood at the top of the cradle was tied 
firmly to the crown of the head. 


Loads are carried with a band passing over the head (women) or 
across the chest (men). Children are carried on the back in a blanket, 
the points of which are tied in front. 

The country has hunting trails but no roads. Most travel is done 
in dugout canoes propelled with poles and broad-bladed paddles. Rafts 
are used for down-river traffic. Large keeled canoes, often equipped 
with a sail, are used at sea. 


Basketry. — Crude baskets, mainly of wickerwork, are made chiefly for 
storage bins. Bark and silk grass fiber bags are very common. Bark 
fiber is used also to make tumplines, hammocks, and such. 

Bark cloth. — Bark cloth is beaten out of ficus-tree bark with a grooved 
wooden mallet. 

Weaving. — Cotton is spun on a spindle, which has a whorl and is 
rotated in a gourd. Coarse-textured but soft cotton cloth is woven on a 
two-beam loom. Thread was formerly dyed and designs were woven in 
the cloth. Sometimes feathers, particularly a fringe of white Muscovy 
duck down, were incorporated into the fabric. 

Ceramics. — Pottery making has been described only from the Sumo 
and Paya, although pottery was formerly made by all tribes. Women 
model small vessels out of a lump of clay but build up large ones with coils. 
They polish them with a pebble, dry them for several days, and fire them 
in the open. Pottery types include jars about 4 feet (1.3 m.) high, various 
types of jugs, water jars, small bowls, griddles, and tobacco pipes. All 
vessels have a convex base. 

Miscellaneous manufactures. — Metates are still used by the Paya 
and Sumo, and they have recently been adopted by the Jicaque, but the 
Mosquito are said no longer to use them. Metates are flat-topped boulders, 
which only rarely have a trimmed surface. Manos are round pebbles. 


Both the Paya and the Northern Sumo occasionally use elaborately carved 
metates and well-made manos obtained at ancient ruins. The Mosquito 
made large wooden mortars and single-ended or, more rarely, double- 
ended pestles. 

Tools used for working wood and for fashioning many miscellaneous 
articles were: Scrapers made of fish teeth, turtle shells, or stone and 
knives made of split bamboo. Three-legged wooden stools were formerly 
richly carved, often having a bird or animal head. Spoons, ladles, cradles, 
and the like are also made of wood. Gourds are often engraved with 
simple geometrical designs (pi. 36, bottom). 

Weapons. — Mosquito, Sumo, and Jicaque bows are 4 to 5 feet (1.3 to 
1.6 m.) long, Paya specimens 6 feet (2 m.) long. They taper toward the 
ends and are rectangular in cross section. Killing arrows have a cane 
shaft and palm-wood foreshaft. Points of flint, obsidian, turtle shell, 
fishbone, and shark and alligator teeth were being replaced by iron ones 
as early as 1678 (Exquemelin, 1678). Arrows are not feathered. Ac- 
cording to Exquemelin, the arrows used about the Laguna de Bluefields 
(Kukra) were 6 to 8 feet (2 to 2.6 m.) long with a flint tip and a wooden 
hook (possibly some type of barb?). Some arrows were weighted with 
pebbles. Stunning arrows have blunt knobs made of hard wood or 

The Ulva and Paya make blowgtms, possibly only toys, from a reed 18 
inches (45 cm.) long. These shoot wax pellets. The blowgun is, even 
among Hispanicized Jicaque, an effective weapon. It is bored from a 
branch of a certain tree, and clay pellets are carefully made by means of 
a gage (Von Hagen, 1943, pp. 50-52). The Mosquito and Sumo prob- 
ably used the blowgun, but present information is not precise. 

Arrow poison has been reported from some Mosquito tribes. Bancroft 
says that this was made from the juice of Hippomane mancinella. Con- 
zemius did not observe this tree in the territory but mentions the possibility 
that the secretions from a frog (Dendrobates tinctorius) may have been 
used. The former poison is used by the Carib, and both types are used 
by the Cuna and Choco. 


Little is known of the aboriginal organization of these tribes. Both 
chiefs and shamans had great power. Local governments now control 
the villages, but during the Conquest these tribes were organized for war 
in various ways. Chiefs were elected by the elderly men and their power 
was supreme. The office was not hereditary, but among the Mosquito 
a nephew or son-in-law of a chief might succeed him. The whole Mosquito 
tribe, under British guidance, was united and ruled by a "king" who 
carried as insignia a staff and a gold or silver breastplate. 


Among the Mosquito and Sumo a man who has been wronged is con- 
sidered a coward if he does not avenge himself. If revenge fails, both 
the offended man and the perpetrator of the offense are supposed to commit 
suicide. A thief, when caught, must return double the amount stolen. A 
creditor may help himself to his debtor's property, or he may destroy the 
property of a third person, in which case the debtor must pay the damage 
(Mosquito). An adulterous wife is beaten and forced to reveal the name 
of her lover, who is fined. A murderer is killed, unless he commits suicide, 
and his memory is dishonored. There is, however, no dishonor in poison- 
ing an enemy, the method employed for most murders. 


A man and woman may agree to marry, or, more rarely, the girl's 
parents may make marriage arrangements without her consent. Child 
betrothals are common. Cross-cousin marriage is frequent, but marriage 
between parallel-cousins and closer relations is forbidden. Mosquito and 
Sumo chiefs and shamans have several wives, and the Paya of Rio Platano 
and Rio Paulaya practice polygyny, as do the Jicaque. 

Before marriage a man must pass through various ordeals, pay the 
bride's family an agreed sum, and prepare a field for his prospective wife. 
The wedding is a simple ceremony. The levirate and sororate are prac- 
ticed, and the many possible exceptions to this rule are adjusted by pay- 
ments. A man may abandon his wife if she is barren. Divorce is accom- 
plished by means of payments to the families of offended parties. The 
woman always keeps the children. Among numerous relationship taboos 
are the important mother-in-law taboo and the prohibition on a man's 
speaking to his sister-in-law and to other close female relatives by marriage. 


Childbirth. — The Paya and Mosquito build special confinement huts ; 
the Sumo partition off a corner of the house. During parturition the 
mother is aided by another woman who cuts the cord with a piece of 
bamboo. The afterbirth and umbilical cord are buried. Among the Paya 
a midwife is regarded by parents and child as a blood relative. This 
belief is said to have originated among the Mosquito and diffused to the 
Sumo and Paya. The second of twins and deformed children are killed 
{Mosquito and Sumo) . Some female children were killed at birth. 

Sumo and Mosquito women bathe immediately after bearing a child, 
Paya women on the third day. Sumo women take a steam bath but use 
no special structure; in other tribes they bathe in the river. This bath 
ends a period of ritual impurity. Mosquito women, however, are con- 
sidered impure for one or two weeks. Women also observe a special diet. 
The return of the mother to the house is celebrated with a ceremony. 


Among some tribes, this ceremony is repeated at a later date. The Sumo 
are said to have practiced circumcision. The couvade is general. 

Individual names are derived from some peculiarity or mannerism. 
Such names were not used to address a person, especially older people. 

Puberty. — Puberty ceremonies consist of tests, the details of which vary 
from tribe to tribe. Sumo boys receive serious military training at puberty. 

Menstruating women are considered to be impure and are confined to 
a corner of the house (Sumo) or to a special hut (Mosquito and Paya). 
They are cleansed by bathing or, among the Sumo, by a steam bath. 

Death. — Death is thought to be due to sorcery or to the machinations 
of evil spirits. People about to die are abandoned in the bush, or they 
may even be killed. If a person dies in a village it has to be abandoned. 
The dead are usually buried in the dwelling, which is abandoned (Paya), 
or, among some tribes, in a special hut. The corpse is placed in a coffin 
made of a canoe wrapped in bark cloth. Personal belongings, food, and 
a dog are placed in the grave. Among the Mosquito, corpses were some- 
times sewed in a mat and placed upright in a grave, facing the east. 
Slaves, servants, and sometimes a shaman were killed and buried with 
Mosquito chiefs. Early reports of the mummification of chiefs appear to 
be exceptional and may refer to other tribes. Clay and gold masks of 
chiefs are reported from one locality, probably Sumo. 

The dead were mourned in many ways. The relatives cut their hair 
short, wept, and fasted. A mourning ritual included attempts at suicide, 
which friends prevented. The women sang songs in praise of the dead. 
Anniversary ceremonies, held at varying intervals, were intended to ap- 
pease evil spirits and to aid the soul on its long journey to the hereafter. 
Shamans invoke the soul in order to discover who was responsible for 
the death and to ascertain future needs. About a year after death the 
Mosquito hold an elaborate anniversary ceremony, in which face masks 
and other paraphernalia are employed. The Sumo have similar cere- 
monies which differ in detail. Formerly, a Mosquito woman exhumed 
the bones of her husband and carried them in a bag for a year, subsequently 
hanging them in the house. She might not remarry for 2 years. 

According to Von Hagen (1943), Jicaque death and burial customs are 
a curious mixture of Christianity and their own beliefs. After some pre- 
liminary mourning the body, clothed in the garments in which the person 
died, is wrapped in cloth or bark cloth and buried in the cemetery. A 
small wooden cross is put at the foot of the grave, and a pot through which 
a hole is punched is laid at the head. The cemetery is an enclosure on a 
hilltop, which is walled off, as are Spanish cemeteries. 


Most of the information concerning warfare pertains to the Mosquito, 
who were highly organized for this purpose. Undoubtedly much of this 


is an elaboration of aboriginal customs, encouraged by the English. Early 
records indicate that the Sumo, Paya, and Jicaque developed similar but 
perhaps less complicated organizations in order to resist the Spanish Con- 
quest. Probably they too had waged war previous to the 16th century, 
but available data do not permit identification of aboriginal customs. 

Among the Mosquito and Sumo all men were potential warriors. They 
were arranged according to military ranks, which were distinguished by 
feather insignia. The warriors, particularly of the Sumo, were subject to 
severe tests including dietary restrictions, and they celebrated various 
ceremonies. Women were not permitted to attend these ceremonies, and 
the warriors were not supposed to have any relations with women. Before 
a battle shamans were consulted. The warriors, painted black, usually 
attacked the enemy at night. The Mosquito took prisoners to be sold as 
slaves to the Whites. The Sumo killed as many of the enemy as possible. 
They mutilated the corpses and wore the teeth and fingernails as trophies. 
Some of the Sumo reputedly ate the roasted flesh of their enemies in order 
to inflict further insult upon them and to make sure that they were com- 
pletely destroyed, 


Dances and music. — All ceremonies are the time for much intoxica- 
tion, dancing, and singing. On frequent occasions the Mosquito sing in 
groups or singly. There are many kinds of dances, some of them specially 
for women and others for particular ceremonies. There are two types of 
drums : a goblet-shaped drum used in funeral and memorial ceremonies 
and a drum of European origin which is used in some of the ceremonies 
and, perhaps, as a signal drum. Conch-shell trumpets and reed or bone 
flutes with one to four stops are blown. Sumo and Mosquito shamans 
use flutes 6 feet (2 m.) long. The musical bow, with or without a gourd 
sounding box, is played by women. Gourd rattles are also used. 


The Sumo, Mosquito, and Paya believe in a deity, called "Our Father," 
who lives in the sky. He is little interested in mankind, is too far removed 
to be approached by humans, and has little influence upon human afifairs 
The sun, moon, and stars, especially the Pleiades, are considered to be 
supernatural beings. They figure in the mythology and are of some sig- 
nificance in the religious philosophy. Solar and lunar eclipses, thunder, 
wind, the rainbow, and other celestial phenomena are explained by myths. 
The last three are the agents of the major deities. 

A Stimo creation myth recounts the activities of two brothers who made 
the animals out of maize cobs. People are believed to have been made 
from rays of the sun. The Paya believe that their god sowed men in the 


same way that manioc is planted. Some of the tribes recount a myth of a 
great flood. The Jicaque believe in two benevolent deities and a female 
god of evil. No offerings are made to the "good" deities, but attempts 
are made to placate the "evil" one, a female who is responsible for all 
misfortune and who causes death. 

The Sumo and Mosquito and possibly the Paya believe that after death 
the soul makes its way eastward over a difficult route to a nether world 
of plenty and happiness. The description of the route traveled and the 
acts performed by the survivors of the deceased to aid the progress of his 
soul on this road differ from tribe to tribe. Under certain conditions the 
soul may remain about the house of the deceased and even occupy his 
former belongings, including domestic animals. For this reason these 
things must be destroyed. 

The Sumo, Mosquito, and Paya believe that the world is populated with 
innumerable spirits. These haunt hills, caves, deep pools of water, and 
other places, and they are responsible for most misfortunes including sick- 
ness and death. A large part of the work of shamans is to placate these 
spirits, to drive them out of sick people, and otherwise to destroy them. 
Protection from the bad spirits is afforded by amulets and charms. 


Most Sumo and Mosquito settlements have a shaman, who may take 
part in secular affairs but whose chief duty is to cure the sick. Shamans 
possess some spiritual power, but very little is known of the various rituals 
through which it is acquired. Sons and sometimes sons-in-law may 
succeed a shaman. Curing varies in detail according to the individual 
shaman and the spirits addressed. A shaman goes into a trance in which 
he contacts the spirits and, in one way or another, drives them out of the 
afflicted person. Curing rituals also include songs, dances, and the use 
of painted sticks, carved figures, and other paraphernalia. Some diseases 
are cured by the imposition of diets, the prohibition of sexual intercourse, 
and other restrictions. Complicated diseases or village-wide epidemics 
are isolated and receive special medical and ceremonial treatment. Infec- 
tions, snake bites, and diseases such as malaria are cured by both shamans 
and laymen, the latter using infusions of herbs and a large number of native 
medicines. Steam baths followed by a cold plunge are also employed. 
Baths in hot springs and partial burial in hot sand are common practices, 
especially among the Sumo. When surgery is necessary a shaman employs 
knives made of obsidian, flint, bone, and such. Ashes, tobacco, wax, and 
resin are used as antiseptics. 

A shaman may also prophesy the future or determine the route hunters 
should take in order to find game. By conjuring, a shaman may cause 
harm to come to people. A shaman may be retained by a person to 
eliminate an enemy. 

Plate 35.— Sumo and Mosquito Indians, Nicaragua. Top: Sutno man. Bottom: 
Mosquito village, Pearl Lagoon. (Courtesy American Museum of Natural 


-iut .:fi':<-|. 


Plate 36.— Sumo manufactures. Top: Beadwork. Bottom: Decorated gourd 
bowls. (Courtesy American Museum of Natural History.) 



The literature, reported mainly from the Mosquito and Sumo, includes 
the many songs. An extensive folklore includes stories of the chase, of 
fishing, and of war. Quasi-historical tales speak of mysterious tribes who 
preceded the present inhabitants in the region. A migration legend says 
that the former home of the Mosquito and Sumo was on the Isthmus of 
Rivas. The Sumo version of a creation legend recounts the common origin 
of the Mosquito and Sumo. 


Rules of etiquette are elaborate even in everyday life. Time may be 
measured by the number of knots on a string or by pebbles placed in a 
gourd. The year was formerly divided into 13 months, the last of which 
was occasionally dropped in order to keep the months in adjustment with 
the seasons. The Mosquito and Sumo employ a vigesimal numerical 


Conzemius, 1932; Exquemelin, 1678; Von Hagen, 1943. 


By Frederick Johnson 


Some tribes of the Talamanca Division became extinct and the remain- 
der were modified by post-Conquest events, but the contemporary rem- 
nants are Hneal descendants of the tribes that occupied the area at the 
Conquest (maps 2 and 5). Their culture may be considered as a unit, 
and early records may be compared with accounts made in modern times. 

The following description of the culture of the Talamanca Division 
originates largely in studies of two tribes, the Guaymi (Johnson, field 
notes; Pinart, 1885, 1887 a, 1887 b, 1900; Peralta, 1890) and the Bribri 
(Gabb, 1875; Skinner, 1920). The culture of the closely allied central 
and northern Costa Rican Groups, though very inadequately known, 
differs from that of the Bribri only on some details. Sixteenth- and 
seventeenth-century data are assembled from miscellaneous observations 
of numerous tribes. Fragments of more recent information have been 
collected from remnants of several other tribes ; the Cabecar, Changuena, 
Dorasque, Terraba, Guatuso, Rama, and others. 

The Guaymi are divided into Northern tribes and Southern tribes. 
The former live in the Tropical Forest, and certain fundamental traits 
were superficially modified by it so as to contrast with the Southern tribes 
living in the Uplands of the Pacific coast. Other differences, though 
appearing in minor details, appear to be more deeply rooted. 



Farming. — Descriptions by Columbus and other early explorers indi- 
cate that agriculture in the Tropical Forest was once more extensive 
than at present. Aboriginal crops are still staple foods, except where 
rice, plantains, and pigeon peas are grown in large quantities. (Cf. list 
below.) In the Tropical Forest hunting supplies nearly as much food 
as farming. Wild plants, though more important in the Tropical Forest, 
are collected by all tribes. Among the modern tribes, particularly the 
Southern Guaymi, farming is extremely important (pi. 37, top). 



List of Foods Most Commonly Grown by the GuaymI * 

Plants of American origin : 

Maize (Zea mays) : Several varieties of both flint and dent. 

Beans (Phaseolns vulgaris) : Nine variants of this species were collected in 

1932-33, seven of which were bush beans and two runner beans. 
Lima beans (Phaseolns hmatus) : Five variants were collected. 
Yuca, or sweet manioc (Manihot utilissima var. aipi). 
Papaya (Carica papaya). 

Alligator pear, or avocado {Persea americana). 
Gourds : Vine and tree gourds of several varieties. Both edible gourds and 

those used for receptacles are grown. 
Camote, or sweetpotato (Ipomoea batatas). 
Cacao (Theobroma cacao). 

Pejibaye (pejivalle) palm or peach palm (Giiilielma gasipaes) . 
Plants of foreign origin : 

Plantain : Several varieties. 

Banana : Several varieties. 

Pigeon peas (Cajanus cajan) : East Indian in origin, sometimes called "dahl." 

Introduced first into Africa and brought to America with the slave trade 

(pi. 37, bottom). 
Gourds (Lagenaria siceraria) : Large "water bottles" are made of this gourd 

Probably of African origin but now grown generally in the American Tropics. 
Name (Dioscorea alata or D. batatas). 
Rice : A variety of Upland rice. 
Hotoes : A tuber, identity not known. 

A type of slash-and-burn agriculture is universally employed. Among 
the Guaymi, crops requiring different lengths of time to mature are 
planted at the same time in one or more plots, and harvesting continues 
on each plot over a period of several years. Each family owns a number 
of plots and clears new ones every year, so that planting, harvesting, 
and fallow periods rotate. 

Clearing the fields and burning the slash are done by the men with 
simple ceremonies. Male relatives and friends gather to drink chicha 
at the house of the owner of fields. They sing songs and the owner en- 
courages them to work hard and to be happy. The Brihri are said to 
dance to drums before clearing the fields, but the Guaymi dance only 
after the field has been cleared. 

The Guaymi women do the planting, but among other tribes the men 
do this work. All tribes use a digging stick several feet long, sharpened 
to a chisellike edge (Gabb, 1875, p. 515). Skinner (1920) suggests 
that these implements may have once been used as clubs, perhaps being 
the quarterstaffs mentioned in the early literature. He says that the 
Brihri called the stick "macana," which he recognizes as a possible equiva- 
lent to the Nahtuitl "macuahuitl." The term is used generally in South 
America for a flat wooden club. 

1 This list, obtained from the Guaymi in 1932-33, includes most foods grown by all tribes in the 
Talamanca Division. Some crops are not grown by certain tribes because of local condition*. 


Salt was an important commodity obtained in trade by the people of 
the Tropical Forest from the Boruca and other tribes which owned natural 
salt pans. 

Hunting. — Game is killed by stalking or by ambushing animals along 
their trails ; frequently it is driven by small black dogs. Bows and arrows 
are still the important weapons, but a few Indians own guns. The blow- 
gun is scarcely known to the Southern Guaymi, none of whom use it, 
but Tropical Forest tribes hunt with it, using a clay pellet rather than 
the dart (p. 243). 

Traps are not adequately described. The Guaymi make baited box 
traps, sometimes strong enough to catch large cats. Snares, sharpened 
stakes in trails, and other types of traps are known. With the recent 
increase of economic difficulties, trails are sometimes guarded with bows 
and arrows and even guns to discourage theft and to prevent the un- 
controlled movement of undesirable people in the region. It was impossible 
to discover whether this practice is aboriginal or not. The practice has 
been declared illegal by most of the tribal councils but had not been 
stopped in 1933. 

Bees are not kept by these tribes, but wild honey is considered a special 
delicacy, and the larvae from the hives are eaten with a special relish. 
The Guaymi give most of the honey to the women and young babies but 
occasionally use it in making chicha. 

Fishing. — Ferdinand Columbus says that nets and fishhooks were used 
to catch fish on the coast of Veraguas. People were also said to have 
lined up along the banks of a stream in order to frighten the fish and 
make them jump against mats set vertically in canoes. 

During the dry season the Southern Guaymi catch small fish with 
their hands. The brooks may be temporarily dammed with stones and 
grass and the small fish driven into nets, which are fastened to 
hoops held in gaps in the dams. Small fish are also caught with spears 
made with sharpened pieces of wire 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 cm.) long 
set into the end of a cane about 10 feet (3 m.) long. During the rainy 
season fish, lying in shallow water, are caught with similar but stouter 

People in the Tropical Forest shoot fish with the bow and single- or 
multiple-pointed arrow. The latter has at least three prongs. Single 
points with many barbs are reported from various tribes. 

During the dry season the Southern Guaymi use a baited fish trap (pi. 
38, bottom) operated by a man sitting behind a blind. When fish nibble 
the bait, causing dried leaves attached to a limber stick to rustle, he closes 
the gate. A conical trap, about 2 feet (60 cm.) in diameter at the open 
end and about 5 feet (1.5 m.) long (pi. 38, top), is used in seasons when 
the brooks rise and fall with some regularity. The trap is placed in 


an opening at the downstream apex of a V-shaped dam. Some dams 
zigzag across a stream so as to accommodate several traps. 

Domesticated animals. — There are early references to a few domes- 
ticated animals. Dogs, tamed tapirs, and wild peccaries (zahinos, 
Tayassu tajacu) are mentioned by Ceballos (1610). People in the 
Tropical Forest now have dogs, a few cattle, and poultry. They also 
keep tame parrots and small native mammals. 

Many Soutliern Giiaymi families have cattle and a few horses, the 
introduction of which, about 1900, caused and is still causing rather ex- 
tensive changes in the economy. An added stimulus to cattle raising 
came during the first World War, when a scarcity of grazing land developed 
in the Republic of Panama. Now a few corrals are maintained, and such 
things as lassoes, whips, and saddles are used when they can be obtained 
from the Panamanians. It has been necessary to fence cultivated land 
and to make other adjustments. Some folklore connected with ranching 
has been added to native traditions, and a set of laws and other social 
regulations governing range areas, inheritance, cattle stealing and such 
are being developed in the tribal councils. 

Food prepai'ation. — Most foods are boiled. Meat, when not eaten 
immediately, is salted and smoked. Maize is hulled in a mortar, boiled, 
and then ground on a metate. The resulting mush may be eaten fresh or 
allowed to ferment. It may be formed into cakes, wrapped in husks, 
and steamed. 


In the early chronicles the habitations of the Talamanca Group are 
called "palenques," but no detail is available. A palenque was, apparently, 
a large dwelling, perhaps a group of dwellings, usually fortified by means 
of a stockade. The term has been applied also to unfortified hamlets 
of several houses. Villages were located on the islands at the mouth of 
the Laguna de Chiriqui and in river valleys some distance from the 
coast. Early descriptions of house furnishings are singularly absent. 

Modern houses in the Tropical Forest are grouped in small communi- 
ties. Sometimes the houses are close together, but frequently they are 
scattered, those of the Southern Guaymi being one-quarter mile to several 
miles apart. Most families have a single house, but large ones may occupy 
two houses, in which case the second usually serves as kitchen and as the 
home of the older people. 

Among the Southern Guaymi one man or the family he represents may 
own several house sites, even though they use but one. Each site is 
recognized as a separate parcel of land and is inherited, usually through 
the male line. The distribution of house sites bears no spacial relation 
to the farmland owned by a family. Modern houses last about 5 years. 

Vol. 4] 



They are seldom repaired ; instead, a new house is built upon an unused 
site and the family abandons the old house. 

The Guaymi build three types of houses; rectangular, square, and 
round. None of these has a specialized use. The square and round 
houses are more common among the Northern tribes. The rectangular 

Figure 50. — Fundamental framework of Southern Guaymi hip-roofed house. 

house, having a hip roof, is built almost exclusively by the Southern 
Guaymi. The framework is illustrated in plate 39, bottom, and figures 50 
and 51. Grass is used as thatch by the Southern Guaymi and split palm 
fronds by the peoples in the Tropical Forest, the fronds being sewn to 

Figure 51. — Framework of Southern Guaynii hip-roofed house with rafters added. 


rods attached to the rafters. In exposed places crotched sticks may help 
secure the thatch. Outside walls (pi. 39, top) are made of vertical 
poles lashed to the primary horizontal framework. Lofts are made in- 
side the houses by lashing horizontal poles to the upper, secondary 

The square and round houses, characteristic of all the Tropical Forest 
tribes, are believed to be the older types. The construction of these is 
similar to that illustrated (pi. 39). The apices of the pyramidal and 
conical roofs are covered with large open-mouthed pots, e.g., broken 
iron pots. Most Gimymi houses have walls. 

Various semipermanent shelters (pi. 40, top) provide additional living 
space or temporary shelter from the elements while traveling. Simple 
windbreaks may be the only shelter used for several weeks at a time. 

The modern palenques built by the Brihri and, apparently, by the 
Cahecar and Terraba are circular or square in plan or, more rarely, have 
straight sides and rounded ends. The older ones are said to have been 
very large. The houses are conical or pyramidal, the roof coming down 
to the ground. The construction is of poles bound with vines (Gabb, 
1875, p. 514; Skinner, 1920). These houses are distinctive in having 
pots to waterproof the apices of the roofs and a shedlike entry to prevent 
the rain from coming in the single door. Angulo (1862, pp. 153-154) 
notes that many families may live in the same house, each with its separate 
property and cooking fire. Other sources note that these houses were 
inhabited by groups of related families. 

Today there are very few if any of these palenques in use. Modern 
Bribri houses are rectangular or oval in plan, with a hip roof and no 
vertical walls. Cabecar houses are now simply a shed roof, sloping in one 
direction and open at the front and sides. Terraba houses are "el" roofs 
raised on short poles and 6pen all around below the eaves. 

Guetar villages consisted of a few communal houses. The Suerre house 
was "shaped like an egg, in length about 45 paces, and 9 in breadth. It 
was encircled with reed, covered with palm branches remarkably well 
interlaced ; there were also a few other houses but of a common sort" 
(Lothrop, 1926 b, p. 23, quoting Benzoni). Guatuso houses were scat-> 
tered over a considerable area. "The houses are low, consisting of a roof 
pitching both v/ays from a ridge pole, and resting on very short but very 
thick posts. This is thatched with palm leaf and is entirely open at the 
ends and sides, under the eaves" (Gabb, 1875, p. 485). Tree houses were 
built by the aboriginal occupants of the region, according to Padre Zapada 
(Bancroft, 1883-90, vol. 8, p. 755). 

Household furniture. — The Giiaymi build platform beds along the 
walls. Other tribes pile plantain leaves on the floor in addition to using 
platform beds. Benches consisting of two horizontal poles or of a split 
log run around the walls. Stools are made of a single block of wood and 

Vol. 4] 



are rectangular, with a V-shaped hollow as the seat (fig. 52, a) (Gnaymi) 
or are carved with two or four legs. Skinner (1920, pp. 52, 55) says that 
frequently the Brihri carved these stools to represent tortoises. Ham- 
mocks, used for lounging but rarely for sleeping, are hung about the 


a o 

Figure 52. — Guaymi household furnishings, a, Wooden bench 
V-shaped seat ; h, c, wooden mortar and pestle. 

with concave 

The center of the floor of a Guaymi house is usually occupied by a large 
log trough in which chicha is made. Troughs are hewn into several forms : 
Some are canoe-shaped with pointed ends ; some have square ends ; others 
have a lip or flange on the ends. The sides are simply the surface from 
which the bark has been peeled. 

Grain is stored in house lofts in cylindrical bins of bark, in baskets and 
such. The Bribri are said occasionally to build outdoor granaries. Mis- 
cellaneous property is hung about the houses in string bags and gourds 
and sometimes in baskets. Bows, blowguns, and arrows are hung in 
crude racks or stuck in the thatch. Sometimes, particularly in the Tropical 
Forest, poultry and even swine are confined in pens inside the house. 

The fireplace is inside the house, usually opposite the door, if the house 
is walled, and its vicinity is cluttered with culinary acticles, such as metates 
and large chicha jars, the latter propped up with sticks and stones. 
Metates, however, may be in a separate shelter. Bribri houses may have 
floors about 4 feet (1.2 m.) from the ground (Skinner, 1920, p. 48) ; 
these cover only part of the area of the house. Floors and lofts are 
reached by a short notched-log ladder. 

6S3334— 48 17 



The aboriginal man's costume was a breechclout, a narrow strip of bark 
cloth, some 6 feet (2 m.) long, passed between the legs and wound around 
the body. It was usually supported by a belt. The women wore the 
breechclout and a knee-length, wrap-around skirt. Both sexes frequently 
wore nothing above the waist, but in most tribes they might use a short 
jacket "so scant that it shows the entire breast." Near Herradura the 
people were said to wear bark-cloth mantles having a hole in the center 
for the head. Men and women occasionally wore, either with or without 
a skirt, a "blanket which covered the head and fell to the feet" (Tcrraha, 
Boruca). Girdles (Changnena and the Tropical Forest of Costa Rica) 
and feather-decorated aprons (Gitaymi) are mentioned but not described. 
Some bark-cloth garments were decorated with painted designs. Feathers 
attached to the head in an undescribed manner are mentioned by the 
earliest explorers. 

At the present time the more conservative people wear the breechclout 
about their houses and cover their shoulders with strips of cloth or rarely 
with short, shirtlike jackets. Sometimes the bark-cloth breechclout is 
covered by a second one of cotton cloth (Pittier de Fabrega, 1938 b, p. 11). 
A poncholike shirt, consisting of a wide strip of bark cloth with a hole for 
the head, is worn by both men and women. This is tied under each arm 
with a piece of string or a belt. In all tribes boys go practically naked 
until puberty, but girls are clothed when they are very young. 

At the present time the less conservative Guaymi men wear shirts made 
with a neckband about 1 inch (2.5 cm.) high and cut to open at the back. 
The bosoms of the shirts are frequently outlined with strips of applique 
and are often decorated with geometrical designs in applique (pi. 45, top, 
right). Rawhide sandals are sometimes worn. These are attached to the 
foot by means of a lace running between the first and second toe and over 
the instep to a second lace attached to the heel and tied around the ankle. 
Straw hats, a recent innovation, are made exclusively by the men. 
Straw is braided into plaits, and the plait is sewn in a spiral beginning at 
the center of the crown. The hat is shaped as it is sewn. 

The modern Guaymi women wear a cotton or bark-cloth breechclout 
supported by a belt and a dress with sleeves and an extremely full skirt. 
The dress reaches from the neck to the ground (pi. 46, top, right, and 
bottom, left) and is slit in front nearly to the waist or has a round neck- 
opening. Applique decorations are frequently added about the neck and, 
more rarely, around the lower part of the skirt. The women's costume is 
completed with quantities of bead necklaces and strings of teeth and shells. 
Guaymi ceremonial costumes are simply elaborations of ordinary clothes. 
The men's shirts have elaborate applique designs on the bosoms; the 
outside of the trouser legs is also decorated (fig. 53). Various types of 
headdresses are worn : a conical cap of fiber or bark cloth (pis. 45 and 

Vol. 4J 



46) ; straw hats, commonly decorated with a circlet of feathers attached 
to the crown, which corresponds to the circlets of brilliant feathers 
formerly worn; and sometimes a square piece of cloth folded diagonally 
and wrapped about the head. Men also wear an elaborate bead collar 
(pi. 45, bottom, right). Women's ceremonial clothing differs from their 
ordinary attire in the great amount of applique decoration and in the use 
of quantities of necklaces. It often includes straw hats. 




Figure 53. — Giuxymi applique clothing designs. From trouser legs of men's 

ceremonial costumes. 

For the balseria and the secret ceremonies Guaymi men carry on their 
backs stuffed animals decorated with beaded collars, ribbons, and bells. 
The front paws rest on the shoulders and the head sticks straight up 
(pi. 45). 

Some people still wear headdresses of feathers set vertically into a tape 
which extends from temple to temple (Gabb, 1875, p. 19; Skinner, 1920, 
p. 80, and illustrations). Some headdresses are made of bands of deco- 
rated cloth. Beaded collars and necklaces are also worn. 

Chiefs and other officials formerly wore special ornaments, apparently 
identifying insignia. Most frequently mentioned at the time of the Con- 
quest were gold ornaments, which now are extremely rare. Chiefs also 
carried a decorated staff (Gabb, 1875, p. 520; Skinner, 1920, p. 89). 

In the 16th and I7th centuries all the people of the region were said 
to have gold ornaments hung about the neck or fastened to the clothing 
or to the arms and legs. These were described as zoomorphic figures, 
such as eagles, lizards, toads, and spiders, and mirrors, golden medals, 
plates, and plaques. Necklaces of various types were also very common. 


In the vicinity of Cartago the men tied a few threads of cotton about 
the prepuce. 

The people of mixed ancestry living in the eastern section of the 
Pacific slopes, west of the Panama Canal, make a bark-cloth mask in 
which a deer skull with horns is frequently incorporated. These are 
used in ceremonies connected with Catholic holy days, which are observed 
in former mission towns. This custom is rapidly dying out. 

Men cut their hair off just above the nape of the neck or sometimes 
clip the back and sides up to a line near the top of the ears. They wear 
bangs. Occasionally the hair is allowed to grow long, either hanging 
loosely or being plaited, bound with bark cloth, and coiled at the back 
of the head. Women's hair hangs freely and is tied with a ribbon about 
the top of the head, or it is divided into two plaits or rolled up at the 
back of the neck. 

According to Ferdinand Columbus, "The people [probably Guaymi] 
were all painted on the face and body in divers colors, white, black and 
red." Urcullu (1763, p. 488) describes scarification or tattooing. The 
same source mentions bone nose and lip plugs and an earplug decorated 
with feathers. Pinart (1887 b, p. 119) says that the Dorasque scarified 
the body with sharp pieces of stone and also painted the body. The 
Guetar and the Guatuso also decorated themselves with paint. Gabb 
(1875, p. 519) says that the Bribri painted their faces with parallelograms 
or squares and that the Terraba formerly tattooed small patterns on the 
faces and arms. Painting has died out. 

Guaymi men paint their faces at all times, but women rarely do so 
except during ceremonies. A man has his own set of geometrical motifs 
and applies them in any combination that suits his caprices. The Southern 
Guaymi do not now paint their bodies. 

Some of the Guaymi, usually younger men, mutilate their teeth, a 
custom that probably was recently adopted. The corners of the upper 
and lower incisors are chipped off, usually to produce a sharp wedge- 
shaped point or what could be described as "needle" teeth. This custom 
is most common among the mixed Panamanian-Indian groups and among 
the Guaymi who have been in closest contact with the Panamanians. It 
is not characteristic of the conservative Guaymi and has not been reported 
among the Talamanca Group. The custom may be of African origin 
(Stewart, 1942). 


Loads are carried in net bags or bundles equipped with a tumpline. 
Horses and, more rarely, bulls and steers are used as pack animals. 

Dugout canoes are used where possible on the ocean and along the 
quieter, lower reaches of the rivers. They are paddled in the aboriginal 
manner, but some have a small sail and a fixed rudder. Small dugouts 


are used on the rivers. During high water the mountain people, who 
rarely have canoes^, use logs or makeshift rafts to cross the rivers. 


Basketry. — For baskets, rough splints are woven in an octagonal open- 
work twill. Baskets vary from cup size to 3 feet (0.9 m.) high and 
some 2 feet (0.6 m.) in diameter. 

Cordage. — All string is made either from majagua, a bast fiber, or 
from pita, a fiber obtained from cactus leaves. Both fibers are twisted 
by rolling them on the thigh. 

Netting. — Hammocks and numerous bags (pi. 41) are made with a 
technique called "coiled netting." (Cf. Lothrop, 1937, fig. 82, p. 111.) 
Innumerable variations of this technique are possible and are employed 
at the discretion of each individual. The bags are decorated by employing 
dyed string. The finest and most highly decorated bags are made of 
pita fiber by Guaymi women, who work several colored threads into 
complicated geometrical designs by means of the simplest stitch. 

Weaving. — Native woven cloth is being supplanted by modern Euro- 
pean cloth. The Guetar were formerly famous for their cloth. Gabb 
(1875) describes a two-bar loom used by the Bribri men who wove locally 
grown cotton. Skinner (1920) visited the same people and found that 
weaving had disappeared, though he collected some old pieces of native 
cloth. Among the Southern Guaymi, in 1933, there was but one woman 
in several hundred families who knew how to weave. She used a two- 
bar loom (pi. 40, bottom) and wove with thread spun from wild tree 
cotton on a drop-spindle which had a disk-shaped wooden whorl. 

Ceramics. — Pottery is made by all tribes, but details are available only 
for the Guaymi. Large, pointed or round-bottomed jars with restricted 
necks are general, but other types have been reported only for the 
Guaymi. The most conservative and inaccessible Guaymi groups are 
said to use slips and other methods of decorations, but most of their 
pottery is unadorned. Pottery is made by only a few women in each 
local group. 

Pottery clay is kneaded with the hands and is fine grained ; clean sand 
is added. A small lump of prepared clay is molded to a cup or dish shape 
and rolls of clay about 15 inches (38 cm.) long and less than 1 inch 
(2.5 cm.) in diameter are added to its edge as concentric rings to form 
the body of the vessel. The rolls are pinched together with the fingers 
and smoothed with the hands and with pieces of gourd. Necks of jars, 
rims, lug-handles, and such are added in much the same way (pi. 42, top). 

1 Large wooden troughs found in many Guaymi houses have been called canoes (e.g., Pinart, 
Peralta). The natives distinguish between canoes and these troughs, which are not seaworthy. On 
the coast, where canoes are used, the Guaymi also have troughs. It is possible that a canoe might 
be used as a trough when an exceptionally large quantity of chicha is to be made. 



[B.A.E. Bull. 143 

After the jars have dried for a few hours the surface is rubbed smooth 
with a wet tool. Several days later vessels are set on the ground and 
a fire is built about them. There are six fundamental forms of vessels 
(pis. 42, bottom; 43, top; fig. 54), some of them similar to the products 
of the modern Panamanian industry and others possibly resembling the 
basic forms of the more highly decorated prehistoric pottery. 




Figure 54. — Guaymi pottery. 

Pottery ocarinas resemble gourd ocarinas, being round or egg-shaped 
with a protruding mouthpiece. Some have two stops arranged on each 
side of the center line ; others have two or rarely three stops on the center 
line. A variant, usually smaller than the first two, is pear-shaped with 
two tubular stops rising above the surface of the ocarina about half an 
inch (1.3 cm.), one on each side of the center line. 

Vol. 4] 



Weapons. — Bows are 4 to 5 feet (1.3 to 1.7 m.) long, less than 1 inch 
(2.5 cm.) wide, and about half an inch (1.2 cm.) thick. The best bow- 
strings are made of pita fiber. Arrows are made of cane and are 4 to 5 
feet (1.3 to 1.7 m.) long. Stunning arrows, used for small game, have 
blunt, knobbed heads made of deer antler, hardwood, or cow horn 
(Skinner, 1920) set into the larger end of the cane, bound with cord, 
and sometimes covered with pitch. Killing arrows are tipped with a piece 
of hardwood which has a rudimentary tang and is set in a deep notch 
of a wooden foreshaft. Only one reference to poisoned arrows has come 
to light. These were said to have been used in battle by the Boruca. 

Gabb (1875, p. 516) describes a blowgun, or pellet gun, bored from one 
piece of wood, fitted with a double sight, and covered with pitch. "The 
missies are clay balls. These . . . are carried in a little net, with them 
are two bone implements. One, simply a straight, heavy piece of bone 
used to drive a ball out of the tube by its weight, in case of sticking. The 
other is similar in appearance, but the end is worked into a round pit with 
sharp edges, for trimming the balls to the proper size and shape." 

Woodworking. — Woodworking is confined to hewing with machetes 
and small adzes and finishing with smaller tools and with certain kinds of 
leaves which are used as sandpaper. Guaymi wooden articles are illus- 
trated in figure 52. Bribri articles are illustrated by Skinner (1920). 

Stone industry. — No cutting tools are made of stone at the present 
time. The grinding surfaces of manos and metates are flattened and pre- 
pared by pecking with another stone. Whetstones are cut from deposits 
of soft sandstone or volcanic rock. 

The Guaymi possess some stone tobacco pipes, which they highly prize. 
These are said to be made by the people living in a locality where a special 
kind of rock is obtainable. These pipes vary from the simple elbow 
variety, undecorated except for a small conical point at the bottom of the 
bowl, to those carved with conventionalized faces. Other varieties are 
decorated with small round lugs near the rim of the bowl, or rarely, with 
incised geometrical designs (fig. 55). 


Figure 55. — Guaymi stone tobacco pipes. 


Fire making. — Fire was formerly made with the hand-twirled drill, 
the tinder being cotton or shredded bark. Ceremonial fires, particularly 
of the Talamanca Group, are still lighted in this way. Fire is also made 
by striking a machete against a stone and catching the sparks on tinder, 
but no special strike-a-lights are used. Fire is seldom allowed to go out, 
being kept smoldering in punky wood or punky fiber hung in a protected 
place. Firebrands are carried when traveling. 

Beadwork. — Necklaces of bone beads and perforated teeth are very 
rare at present. Beads of European origin are strung into necklaces and 
woven into collars. The Guaymi make collars with designs of various 
colors, the beads being strung on pita fiber thread (fig. 56). 

Figure 56. — Guaymi technique in making beadwork collars. 

The majority of the Guaymi produce a surplus of food, but some people 
have insufficient land or other resources, such as labor, to supply them- 
selves with enough to eat. In addition, there are orphans, disinherited 
families, and certain unfortunate individuals who are paupers. Such 
people are largely absorbed as agricultural labor. 

Guaymi economy depends upon agriculture, but remnants of what may 
have been an aboriginal system of trade between the Tropical Forest and 
the Savanna may be observed in operation. In addition, commodities of 
European origin, such as cattle, clothing, machetes, fishhooks, sugar, and 
to some extent salt, have to be obtained from the Panamanians. This 
necessity has forced the people to adopt money and methods of exchange 
which are apparently completely foreign to their tradition. In spite of 
nearly 400 years of dealing with Europeans, the Guaymi do not yet under- 
stand the use of money. The less conservative groups, who have vague 
and usually erroneous ideas of European practices of exchange, obtain 


articles of European origin and trade them in the Guaymi country, follow- 
ing more or less the aboriginal barter system. This procedure results in 
the utmost confusion. A deal, even if initially of the simplest sort, usually 
becomes hopelessly complicated and ends up, sometimes after several years, 
in the council, where the governor makes an arbitrary and not always 
popular solution. 

The influx of cattle, particularly since 1914, has interrupted the eco- 
nomic life to some extent. The principle effect has been to take the men 
off the land for a portion of the year, leaving more work for the women 
to do. In some cases this results in hardship for it reduces the normal 
supply of food. Cattle are so precious that they are rarely slaughtered 
and thus do not replace the agricultural losses. 

Wealth is usually measured in terms of the productivity of one's land 
and the number of one's cattle. It is expressed not only directly but in 
terms of what the crops, particularly the surplus, can buy. Thus, a 
wealthy man may be the head of a family having a well-equipped house 
or he may be the owner of a large supply of some commodity such as cloth 
or salt. 


The whole social structure of the Guaymi is now being modified. 
Present rules are often contradictory and result in much disagreement 
among the people. The fundamental Guaymi unit is the family, which 
consists of a man, one or more wives, and their children. Occasionally 
this unit includes the first wife's mother and father and sometimes the 
parents of other wives. A man usually formally marries his first wife. 
He may marry or purchase subsequent wives. Divorces are illegal but 
frequent. A woman may leave her husband for another man, but the 
latter must pay the husband. The Guaymi have a clanlike organization 
v/hich appears to be exogamous, but the details are unknown. All tribes 
are polygynous. 

Descent among the Guaymi is reckoned through the female line, but 
property may be inherited through both the male and female lines. As a 
rule, land, cattle, and other property are held in the names of the men 
and boys. Women own a little land, many cattle, and all the household 
goods. Claims arising from this complicated system, which at present 
does not work well, are adjusted by the tribal council upon the order of 
the governor. 

Pittier de Fabrega (1895) notes that the Bribri had exogamous matri- 
lineal moieties, which were divided into clans. A Bribri man purchased 
his wives. Information from other tribes is extremely scarce, but it sug- 
gests that analogous systems were in vogue. Inheritance was apparently 
similar to the Guaymi system (Gabb, 1875, p. 496). At the time of the 
Conquest the Guetar were divided into three classes : nobles, commoners, 


and slaves, the last being women and boys captured in war. Captive men 
were sacrificed. 


Evidence from the early documents and from some more recent sources 
indicates that these tribes existed under a number of feudal governments. 
There were probably at least three feudal states — the Guaynii, the Tala- 
manca Group, and the Guetar. During the wars with the Spaniards each 
government was rapidly welded into a strong unit. When these were 
broken up by the Conquest, realignments were attempted. At the present 
time these systems have broken down, and most of the surviving tribes 
are governed by heads of local groups. 

The titular head of the Guaymi lives in the Miranda Valley and rules 
only by reputation. The local governors still have considerable authority. 
Each usually inherits his position, being, theoretically, the oldest surviving 
son of the first marriage. A governor rules over clanlike divisions. His 
authority depends upon the prestige of his ofifice, his ability, and, to some 
extent, upon the support of a loosely organized council made up of 
influential members of the group. 

The social and political organization of the Guaymi is in a state of 
transition. The people on the fringes of Indian territory are becoming 
closely associated with the neighboring Panamanian towns and districts 
and heed some of the orders of the Panamanian officials, especially those 
that are to their advantage. The infusion of Panamanian ideas is break- 
ing down former ideas of family relationships and the inheritance of 
property. The resulting complication often becomes intolerable, and a 
Guaymi family group may break up and join the Panamanians or it may 
move farther back into the mountains and in turn upset the local social, 
political, and economic situation there. The position of some governors 
is not an enviable one. 

Among the Bribri and related tribes the situation seems to differ 
only in detail. The Bribri conquered the Terraba after a war at the 
beginning of the 19th century (Gabb, 1875, pp. 488-489), and the Bribri 
chiefs now control the Terraba chieftaincy. In addition, the Bribri are 
the political superiors of the Cabecar, and the Bribri dialect has survived 
at the expense of the other dialects. The full powers of Bribri chieftain- 
ship rest in a single family, which does not observe unilinear succession 
but selects its most eligible member to succeed a deceased chief. The 
chieftaincy carries some social prestige, but the authority depends upon 
support of the Costa Rican Government, which has now gained control 
of it. 



All the tribes were more or less warlike. The early sources emphasize 
the idea that the wars were for the purpose of obtaining captives for 
sacrifice (particularly in central and northern Costa Rica). It is probable 
that economic, political, and territorial difficulties also were involved. 
The Spaniards had considerable difficulty in conquering some of these 
tribes not only because of the environment but also because the tribes 
quickly formed alliances against the common enemy. They were, how- 
ever, sometimes able to play one tribe against another. Nothing is known 
of the way in which the Gtiaymi organized for war. The Bribri, Cabecar, 
and Terraha, among others, had war chiefs who were usually elected 
and who exercised absolute power over the tribe. The warriors belonged 
to a special class and were frequently given special burials. 


Childbirth. — During pregnancy the women of most of these tribes 
practice simple sympathetic magic in order to impart desired attributes 
to the expected child. A woman gives birth in a little house built for 
the purpose at some distance from the dwelling. She is assisted by her 
mother or by some elderly midwife. The umbilical cord is cut with 
a special bamboo knife. As soon as the child is born it is washed, the 
placenta is buried, and both mother and infant are ceremonially washed 
in a river. The woman returns to the house but may not enter it until 
she has been purified by a shaman, who blows smoke all over her. The 
details of this purification ceremony differ among various tribes. (Cf. 
Pinart, 1885, p. 444; Gabb, 1875, p. 494; Pittier de Fabrega, 1938 b, 
p. 23; Angulo, 1862, pp. 153-154; etc.) 

The only naming ceremony reported is that of the Guaymi, who usually 
combine it with some other affair, such as clearing the land, which is 
attended by a number of people. The child's father swings it through 
the smoke of a fire and names it. Other men also swing it through the 
smoke. Names so given are used until the puberty ceremony, when 
new names are given. 

Boys' puberty. — A secret puberty ceremony, called in Spanish the 
"clarido," is celebrated by the Guaymi. Certain male members of a local 
group instruct the boys, while designated women act as aids or servants. 
The leaders paint their bodies and appear in masks. The boys are taught 
to paint their faces, and, in some sections, their teeth are chipped. They 
receive an official but secret name, and, following the ceremony, they 
may take their first wives. 

Death customs. — There are conflicting and confusing accounts of cus- 
toms connected with death and the disposal of the dead. It is probable 
that each tribe buried in various ways, the method depending upon the 



[B.A.E. Bull. 143 

deceased's social position. The Southern Guaymi bury after the corpse 
has hung in the house during a few days of mourning and ceremonial 
observances (pi. 44; fig. 57). The dead are not exhumed. Pinart 

Figure 57. — Guaymi burial, a, Diagram of mound constructed over burial which 
was oriented with the head of the corpse to the west. Numbers 1, 2, and 3 are 
bejuco hoops which were laid over crosses located by black dots, a, b, and c 
indicate the location of small holes in which chicha in two small iron pots and 
articles such as mirrors, combs, a bit of face paint, etc. were buried, b, Sketch 
of gate or exit made of two upright balsa poles to which a loop of bejuco was 
lashed. The gate was located on the eastern edge of the cemetery. This was 
constructed while the grave was being filled. Everyone at the burial services 
passed through this exit at the end of the ceremony. 

(1885, pp. 445-446) says that the Guaymi (probably the Northern tribes) 
wrap the corpse and leave it in a special place until the flesh has rotted 
ofif, when the bones are collected and buried with great ceremony. In- 
humation and varieties of secondary burial are reported for several other 
tribes. The remains are put in the ground or hung in the houses. Among 
the Cuetar embalmed bodies are put in mortuary buildings. All funeral 
ceremonies are long and complicated. 



Musical instruments. — The Gnaymi make conch-shell trumpets by 
grinding off part of the whorl and molding a mouthpiece of pitch. Cow- 
horn trumpets made of the horns of longhorn cattle or of several sections 
of short horns stuck together with pitch and equipped with a wooden 
mouthpiece are now replacing these. 

Whistles or endflutes with three and four stops are made of bone, 
wood, and reeds. Each whistle is made to play a certain tune composed 
by its maker. Double-reed whistles with no stops are also made. 

Pottery ocarinas have been described (p. 242), Ocarinas are also made 
of gourds or are molded of pitch. Rarely, turtle shells are suspended 
from the shoulders by a string and played by rubbing the hand over the 
edge of the shell. 

A few drums are made by the present-day Northern Guaymi. Some 
have double heads tightened over a hollow log by means of hoops and 
lashings ; others have no hoops. These drums are beaten with the hand 
or with two sticks. Bribri drums are made of a tapered hollow log and 
have a single head (Gabb, 1875, p. 517; Skinner, 1920). 

The Bribri make an instrument of armadillo skin, which is rubbed 
with a beanlike seed. Gourd rattles and a xylophonelike instrument made 
by hollowing a chunk of wood are also mentioned. 

Alcoholic beverages. — Many beverages or chichas are made, most of 
them fermented and some intoxicating. Most commonly, maize is used. 
It is partially ground on a metate or simply crushed in a mortar, and 
it may or may not be cooked before it is poured into a trough to ferment. 
A type of chicha, highly desired because of its alcoholic content, is made 
of maize, much of which is partially chewed by the women and spat into 
a trough. Other beverages may be made of yuca or of combinations of 
various kinds of fruits. Such beverages were first described by the 
conquistadors, and one account mentions a drink made from a tree of 
the "copal" species. It was said to resemble turpentine and to have 
been used also to embalm the dead ! 

Narcotics. — In discussing Ferdinand Columbus's descriptions of the 
natives (Guaymi f) encountered on the north coast of Veraguas, Lothrop 
(1937, p. 17) notes that in the land of the Cacique Urira the people 
were accustomed to chew a dried herb mixed with some sort of powder 
and suggests that this refers either to tobacco chewing or to coca chewing. 


Early accounts of religious activities are confined to passing mention 
of priests who were usually also secular officials. By means of ceremonies 
these men cured the sick, prophesied the future, and such. 


Modern references describe the remnants of religious concepts which 
must have had considerable influence upon everyday life. The Guaymi 
now speak of a God with attributes similar to the Christian God. They 
also have shamans and sorcerers who prophesy the future and placate 
various evil spirits. Ritual is now restricted to very private ceremonies 
held at night. Other ceremonies also have a certain religious background. 

Accounts of the Bribri describe a formal priesthood usually made up 
of Bribri but ruled by a single priest chosen from the Cabecar tribe. In 
addition, a certain group of laymen is officially recognized as sorcerers 
and shamans. The Guetar had an organized priesthood, and they sacri- 
ficed human beings at every moon and at burial feasts. 

The people have a well-developed theology which includes a Supreme 
Being and a multitude of lesser deities, both benevolent and malevolent. 
The bad spirits must be constantly placated in order to ward oflf sickness, 
death, and all kinds of misfortune. They are exorcised by the religious 
officials in various ways. 

These tribes have concepts of various degrees of spiritual cleanliness 
of both human beings and inanimate objects. An object which has not 
been used for some time may become unclean and must be spiritually 
cleansed before it is serviceable. Some degrees of uncleanliness are con- 
ceived to be of a serious nature. (For further details, of. Gabb, 1875, 
p. 188, pp. 503-504; Pittier de Fabrega, 1938 b, pp. 16-19; Skinner, 
1920, pp. 46-47.) 


Only the more important of the many ceremonies reported during the 
past centuries are now celebrated. All these have a religious background, 
and all characteristically involve varying degrees of drunkenness and 
brawling. Some are primarily of a social nature, such as the Guaymi 
"chicheria," during which the men and women dance in a circle to a 
single song that everyone sings interminably. The dancing may last for 
several days. Upon occasion this ceremony is considered to be a memorial 
to the deceased rather than a social gathering. 

One of the important Guaymi ceremonies is called in Spanish the 
"balseria." It is connected with agriculture, particularly the planting of 
crops, but no clear statement of the details has yet been obtained. Out- 
wardly, the ceremony is a large social gathering in which there is some 
formalized competition between regional and relationship groups. These 
groups are perhaps extended families, possibly even clans, each of which 
occupies a certain region and owns a number of the ceremonial grounds. 
The balserias are held at a different location each year. A group of the 
Northern Guaymi occupies a special place on the program of the cere- 
mony. In the principal activity, which lasts one day, two groups throw 
balsa-wood sticks at each other (pis. 46 and 47). These contestants 


belong in different classes, which are determined by either a family rela- 
tionship or by region. In some instances men may wager property and 
even their wives upon the outcome of the "stick play." 

For descriptions of ceremonies among the Bribri, see Gabb (1875), 


Angulo, 1862; Bancroft, 1883-90; Ceballos, 1610; Gabb, 1875; Lothrop, 1926 b, 
1937; Peralta, 1890; Pinart, 1885, 1887 a, 1887 b, 1900; Pittier de Fabrega, 1895, 
1938 b; Skinner, 1920; Stewart, 1942; Urcullu, 1763. 


Plate 37. — Guaymi farming and foodstuffs. Top: Fenced farmland on which 
yuca and pigeon peas are raised. Bottom: Pigeon peas being dried in the sun. 
(Courtesy Fredericli; Johnson.) 

Plate 38.— Guaymi fish traps. Top: Abandoned trap and stone dam. Bottom: 
Trap in working order. (Courtesy Frederick Johnson.) 

Plate 39.— Hip-roofed house of the Guaymi. Top: Completed. Bottom: 
Framework. (Courtesy Frederick Johnson.) 

Plate 40— Guaymi shelter and loom weaving. Top: Flat-roofed shelter. 
Bottom: Beating down woof with sword batten in weaving. (Courtesy Fred- 
erick Johnson.) 

Plate 41. — Valienti (Guaymi ?) bags, Panama. (Courtesy American Museum 

of Natural History.) 

Plate 42. — Guaymi pottery making. Top: Adding clay ring'to form rim. 
Bottom: Small jar before firing. (Courtesy Frederick Johnson.) 

Plate 43. — Guaymi utensils,^ Top: Large pottery jar. Bottom: Uncommon 
shape of mortar. (Courtesy Frederick Johnson.) 


Plate 45.— Guaymi men in ceremonial costumes. (Courtesy Frederick Johnson.) 

Plate 46. — Guaymi ceremonies and ceremonial dress. Top: {left) Balseria 

ceremony. Man pointing pole at his opponent. Top {right) and bottom 

{left): Women in ceremonial dress. Bottom {right): Man in ceremonial dress. 
(Courtesy Frederick Johnson.) 

Plate 47. — Guaymi balseria ceremony. Top: Man throwing pole at his oppo- 
nent. Bottom: Rack of balsa poles prepared for balseria ceremony. (Courtesy 
Frederick Johnson.) 

Plate 48. — Guaymi man. 

Wearing "working" or everyday clothes. (Courtesy 
Frederick Johnson.) 


By Samuel K. Lothrop 


The tribes west and south of the Panama Canal appear to have been 
fundamentally similar culturally to those of the Talamanca Division, but 
16th-century data reveal certain differences that warrant their separate 
treatment (maps 2 and 5). 

Beginning with the first Conquest of the Panamanian Savannas (Espi- 
nosa, 1514, 1516, 1519; cf. also Oviedo y Valdes, 1851-55), Spanish 
writers made clear statements that the region was inhabited by peoples 
speaking languages which were mutually unintelligible. Some must have 
spoken Chibchan; others perhaps did not. That the indigenous popula- 
tion was practically obliterated before the end of the century, and that 
as early as 1600 enclaves of people speaking Guaymi and other dialects 
were moved into the area by the Spanish administrators, are reasons for 
seriously questioning whether the tribal identities of recent groups and 
of neighboring enclaves are any indication of the affinities of the population 
of the 16th century. In view of certain characteristics of their culture, 
these people are tentatively considered as a larger unit in a general Guaymi 



Apparently the food supply was plentiful and the people cultivated and 
preserved maize, peppers, manioc, sweetpotatoes, calabashes and gourds, 
and possibly squashes and other plants. 

Meat, preserved by smoking, was supplied by hunting deer, peccaries, 
iguana and other lizards, sea turtles, curassows, ducks, and small mam- 
mals. Game and fish were taken with nets made of various kinds of fiber 
or of hide thongs. The game was driven by dogs into these nets or 
sometimes into pits. During the dry season the grass was occasionally 
fired and a great number of animals were driven down upon a line of 
hunters armed with darts or bows and arrows. Birds were shot over 

1 A more complete summary of these data may be found in Lothrop (1937). 


6S3334 — 48 18 


decoys or caught in nets. Fish occupied an important place in the diet, 
and shellfish were eaten. 

Salt was not used in cooking but a lump was licked between mouthfuls 
of food. It was an article of commerce. Chicha. a beer made of maize 
or fruit juices, was the principal drink. 


The people lived in towns which the Europeans named after the prin- 
cipal chiefs or caciques. Some of the towns had as many as 1,500 people. 
They were compactly built and often fortified. The log palisades or 
fences, which usually sprouted and grew into high dense hedges, were 
said to be intended to keep out wild animals, but the Spaniards found them 
effective barriers to military operations. 

Oviedo y Valdes reports round houses with vertical walls and a conical 
roof. Chiefs' houses were of great size and were divided into many 
rooms. Espinosa states that he fed his expeditionary force for 4 months 
on the provisions discovered in the residence of the Chieftain Nata. These 
stores included the smoked carcasses of 300 deer, dried fish, and fowl. 

Houses were furnished with hammocks or low benches which were used 
as beds. The beds were made up with cotton blankets or possibly sheets 
of bark cloth. Baskets with lids, a great variety of pottery, gourds, metates, 
and possibly wooden log mortars were part of the equipment of every 


It is probable that the common people went naked or nearly so. The 
caciques and other influential men were dressed in cotton cloaks studded 
with gold plaques. Archeological evidence adds small decorated aprons 
to the list of garments. The women wore a cotton skirt or apron, reaching 
at least to the knees. Information from eastern Panama suggests that 
possibly longer skirts were worn by women of rank. 

Except for the bearded warriors of the town of Escoria, both sexes 
ever)rwhere removed all the facial and body hair. Everyone painted and 
tattooed himself. Tattooing indicated rank, and each chief had his own 
device, which was likewise used by his subjects. There were also special 
marks for slaves. Outstanding articles of personal adornment were 
various types of jewelry and precious stones, helmets of gold, greaves, 
circlets, feather headdresses, nose plugs, stone, bone, and gold ear spools 
of several types, necklaces, and pendants of metal, stone, and carved bone. 
Apparently some of these ornaments were worn only by persons .of rank 
as both insignia and identifying ornaments. 



All industries were well developed, and the people had a plentiful supply 
of cloth, baskets, carved wooden tools and ornaments, pottery, and such. 
Metalworking was very highly developed, and many techniques of casting, 
plating, soldering, and cold-hammering were known and used in making 
the most intricate ornaments. 

Fire was made with three sticks, two of which were lashed together 
and placed on the ground. The point of the third stick or drill was set in 
the notch between the two and rotated between the palm of the hand. 


Native communities were divided into four social classes. The supreme 
chiefs, such as Parita, Nata, and Escoria, exercised despotic authority and 
lived in great luxury with many wives and retainers. They were sur- 
rounded by a nobility, who won their titles in battle or inherited them if 
they dedicated themselves to war. These men had subjects and property 
of their own, often living in their separate villages, subject to the call of 
their head chief. Of the common people little is known except that they 
were allowed to marry into the nobility. Slaves were prisoners of war. 
Their faces were either branded or tatooed, and a front tooth was often 
extracted. In spite of its complexity this society seems to have been less 
developed than the most advanced cultures in South America and Meso- 


War was a recognized activity of a large portion of the male popula- 
tion, and all the towns supported a permanent army. Weapons were bows 
and arrows, darts, and spears. Statements that the arrows were not 
poisonous are direct and precise. Spear throwers to project darts are 
recorded from Darien (Oviedo y Valdes, 1851-55) but curiously not from 
the Savanna. As they occur in the protohistoric graves, it is possible 
that the 16th-century Indians knew and used them. Clubs are illustrated 
in the gold figures from the region, but the Spaniards make no specific 
reference to them. 


These Indians had a native ball court ( juego de pelota) , which, however, 
definitely was not of Mexican or Central American type, for it was com- 
pared to the Arawak ball courts seen by the Spaniards in the West Indies, 
a type which diflFers radically from those of the mainland. In Panama 
the ball court was reported from the base of the Asuero Peninsula, in the 
land governed by Cacique Jabraba. 



Of ritual associated with such functions as birth, puberty, marriage, 
divorce, dances, games, war, and religion little can be said except that no 
detailed account has come down to us. The complex symbolism found on 
archeological objects together with the meager observations of the 
Spaniards, however, suggests a rich development. 


No descriptions of the disposal of the corpses of common people have 
come to light. Burial in the ground was a right which may have been 
confined to the chiefs, nobility, and their wives and retainers. In 1519 the 
Spaniards discovered and described the body of the Cacique Parita pre- 
pared for burial in sumptuous array, including gold orn£iments which 
weighed 355 pounds. The most famous burial ground, today known as 
Sitio Conte, is situated on the Rio Grande de Code. Here the graves of 
important men in protohistoric times have been exhumed. ( See Lothrop, 
this volume, p. 147.) 


Espinosa, 1514, 1516, 1519; Oviedo y Valdes, 1851-55; Lothrop, 1937. 


By David B. Stout 



Farming. — Agriculture, almost exclusively men's work among the 
San Bias Cuna, is carried on by slash-and-bum methods in which a dibble 
is used. The modern crops grown are bananas, plantain, corn, rice, yams, 
sweet manioc,^ sweetpotatoes, sugarcane, peppers, tobacco, and pineapples. 
In addition, coconut, cacao, orange, lime, mango, papaya, avocado, and 
coffee trees and bushes are tended. 

Hunting. — Hunting, now a distinctly secondary activity and not en- 
gaged in by all the men, was once the object of expeditions composed of 
men and some women, who traveled in search of game for varying lengths 
of time. Peccaries are hunted by individuals or by the surround method, 
and pitfalls are occasionally built near the fields to catch tapirs. Other 
quarry consists of agoutis, iguanas, squirrels, two species of monkeys, 
deer, and several species of birds. Dogs are sometimes used as a hunting 
aid. The weapons employed are bows and arrows, blowguns, spears, and 

Fishing. — Fishing is done with nets, spears, bows and pronged arrows, 
and weirs and harpoons, the last probably borrowed from the Negroes. 
Decoys are used in catching the sea turtles in stationary nets (fig. 58). 

Figure 58. — Cuna sea turtle decoy. (Approximate length 32 cm. (12J/2 in.)). 
(After Nordenskiold, 1938, fig. 31.) 

* See maps 2 and 5. The cultural data here refer to the modem Cuna unless an earlier period 
is indicated. 

* Poisonous manioc was reported for the Cuna in the late 17th century but without details of the 
method used in pressing the poison from it. 



Domesticated animals. — Dogs, pigs, chickens, and cats are the only 
domesticated animals. Pigs and chickens are kept more for trade pur- 
poses than as a direct source of food. Some individuals keep captive 
birds and monkeys for pets. 

Food preparation. — Bananas, plantains, sugarcane, fish, corn, and rice 
are the principal items. Fish, bananas, and plantains are usually boiled, 
separately or together, as a mush, which is seasoned with salt and lime 
juice. Bananas, plantains, and the tuberous foods are also baked. Meat 
is roasted or, if there is a surplus, smoked. Fish also is smoked. One 
unfermented beverage is composed of sugarcane juice, roasted corn meal, 
cacao, and water; another, of mashed plantains or bananas, cacao, and 
water. These gruels form the usual breakfast and serve as snacks during 
the day and around nightfall. The principal meal of the day is taken 
in the early afternoon, when the boiled, roasted, or smoked foods are 


The San Bias Cuna live in compact villages composed of regular rows 
of houses along one or more streets. The Mainland Cuna live in sm;iller 
villages along the riverbanks. The houses are rectangular with thatched 
roofs and palm-wood slat or cane walls. Most are built directly on the 
ground, though some at the eastern end of the Cuna territory are raised 
on piles. Many contain a loft reached by a notched-log ladder. Every 
dwelling has a smaller cook house, constructed either separately or as an 
extension of the main house. 

Interior furnishings of the dwellings include hammocks, low, 1 -piece 
wooden seats (pi. 49, a, b), looms, and a storage platform. Temporary 
partitions are constructed for ceremonial purposes, and permanent ones 
are found in the dwellings of the shamans. The central feature of the 
cook house is a 3-log fireplace, around which are kept the cooking utensils. 


Clothing. — Clothing at the time of the Conquest consisted of penis 
cover of shell, reed, or gold and, for the women, a cloth skirt extending 
to the knees or ankles. Late in the 17th century the men were described 
as wearing the penis cover and also a loose cloth garment containing neck 
and arm holes. This was put on over the head. Since then, particularly 
since about 1870, men have adopted European-style shirts and trousers, 
and women have added a trade-cloth blouse (pi. 49, d, g) made with 
applique techniques of intricate design. Of the feather girdles or aprons 
and feather-decorated crowns of the late 17th century, only the latter are 
still in use. These are composed of a basketry band with four upright 
tufts of feathers and a brim of shorter feathers. They are worn by the 
ceremonial leaders (pi. 50, a) . 

Vol. 4] THE CUNA— STOUT 259 

Tattooing and painting. — Tattooing, now no longer practiced, once 
was used to indicate status. Slaves were tattooed with a property mark. 
Face and body painting late in the 17th century was described as a 
woman's art. It was elaborate and included the use of red, yellow, and 
blue pigments. Warriors painted their faces red. Now only a few simple 
dots and lines are worn by women on their noses and faces. All the 
Cufui paint red spots on their palms, soles, and cheeks. 

Miscellaneous ornaments. — TheCuna used nose and ear ornaments, 
breast pendants, gold cuffs, greaves, headdresses, and helmets. None of 
these have been found archeologically in the Cuna or Cueva area, though 
it seems very likely that they were similar in design to those found at 
Code (Lothrop, 1937). The men's large gold nose plates and ear plates 
and the women's gold nose rings described late in the 17th century survive 
in part in the nose rings and disk-shaped ear pendants worn by women 
of the present time. Likewise, the many-stranded necklaces of animal 
teeth (including those of the jaguar) and shells described for the same 
period are still used, but on a much smaller scale. They have been largely 
replaced with heav}^ necklaces of coins and glass beads and are now worn 
only by the women. In recent years the women have taken to wearing 
constricting rows of beads around the ankles, above the calf, around the 
wrist, and just below the elbow. 


Canoes. — The San Bias Cuna oceangoing dugout, equipped with jib and 
triangular mainsail, is a post-Columbian development of the aboriginal 
long, narrow dugout with platform ends. This latter type is still used by 
some San Bias individuals when ascending the rivers of the mainland 
and is universal among the Mainland Cuna groups. It is propelled with 
crutch-handled paddles and with poles. 

Carrying devices. — Articles are transported in large baskets slung on 
the back with a tumpline. Also, balanced loads are placed on opposite 
ends of a fore-and-aft carrying pole, which rests on the shoulder. Such 
poles are occasionally used in pairs. 


Bark cloth. — Bark cloth, though known to the Cuna, seems never to 
have been used extensively. 

Weaving and cordage. — Until recently one of the major feminine 
occupations has been the manufacture of cordage from several bast fibers 
combined with cotton. Cotton cloth is woven on the vertical {"Arawak") 
type of loom. Hammocks are still woven but now almost exclusively 
with trade string. 

Basketry. — Basketry techniques are used in making fire fans, trays, 
telescoping envelopes, and many sizes of hemispherical and cylindrical 
containers. The weaves employed are twilling and wickerwork, often 


with one series of elements colored black (pi. 49, /). A coiled basketry 
technique has also been reported but is seldom used. 

Gourds and calabashes. — Containers made of calabashes are employed 
as food dishes, cups, and water vessels and for storage of clothing and 
ornaments. The orifice of storage gourds is closed with a smaller inverted 
calabash held in place with strings. These calabash articles were formerly 
painted in several colors. 

Ceramics. — Nothing is known of the aboriginal pottery of the Cuna, 
and no archeological specimens can be definitely assigned to this tribe. 
At present pottery techniques are used only in making anthropomorphic 
and zoomorphic figurines and braziers (pi. 49, c, e) used in the various 
ceremonies and in conjunction with medicine chants. This pottery is 
coiled ; it is coarse and unevenly fired. The Cuna obtain large pottery 
chicha jars by trade from Colombia. 

Rubber. — It is very doubtful whether the aboriginal Cuna ever used 

Metallurgy. — Nothing is known of the techniques employed in making 
the gold ornaments described in the 16th and 17th centuries. The present- 
day gold ornaments are obtained from traders. 

Stone objects. — No objects are made of stone, though many house- 
holds possess a simple stone metate and mano which have been found on 
the old village sites or cemeteries. 

Weapons. — Bows and arrows are used, the latter unfeathered and hav- 
ing a blunt, single or composite point. Spears and, recently, single-barrel 
shotguns are also used. If the Cueva are taken to be ancestral to the Cuna, 
then the spear thrower was also once a major weapon, though it has not 
been described for the Cuna area since early in the 16th century (Oviedo 
y Valdes, 1851-55, vol. 3, pt. 29, ch. 26, pp. 127, 129). The blowgun 
with poisoned darts does not appear to be aboriginal among the Cuna, but 
rather to have diffused to them from the neighboring Choco during the 
historic period. 


The kinship system is bilateral and descriptive, with added age re- 

Marriage is now almost exclusively monogamous, though polygynous 
marriages are allowed. The early accounts frequently noted that polygyny 
was usual among the leading men. There is very little intermarriage 
between the Mainland and the San Bias Cuna, but within each of these 
subdivisions marrying in or out of the village or island is determined less 
by definite endogamous or exogamous rules than by convenience and 
other circumstances. In all cases marriage residence is matrilocal ; thus 
each house contains a household composed of one or more conjugal family 
units related by marriage to a lineage of women. 

Vol. 4] THE CUNA— STOUT 261 

The oldest male in each household is its head, and younger men who 
have married his daughters or granddaughters are subject to his authority. 
Any tendencies to tyranny in this system are counterbalanced, however, 
by the fact that no payment is made in contracting a marriage and no 
penalties are levied if divorce occurs. The wife of the household head 
exercises a small degree of authority over the other women — daughters 
and grandaughters — ^and through her husband considerable authority over 
the sons-in-law. Upon the death of the household head the oldest of his 
sons-in-law succeeds to authority if the several families remain under one 
roof. However, being free from service to their father-in-law, some or all 
families may set up separate establishments, usually in the same village. 
Should a man's wife die, he is free to leave his father-in-law's household 
and remarry elsewhere. Until he is remarried he usually spends the 
interim in his own father's household. The house itself is inherited in 
the female line. Croplands and personal possessions are inherited from 
parents to children and between siblings but never between spouses. 

The organization of the Cueva and other Darien tribes was described 
in the 16th century as strongly stratified, the classes being chiefs, nobles, 
commoners, and slaves. This system has long since been altered, and 
today there are two loosely defined strata, between which there is con- 
siderable mobility. These strata are differentiated largely by degree of 
economic possessions and, among the San Bias Cuna, by degrees of con- 
servatism and adherence to the older customs. Political power is now 
vested in village chiefs, who are elected by the men of the village. Each 
chief is assisted by two second chiefs and by several sherifflike officials 
who act as his messengers, agents, and official greeters for the village. 
The chief presides over meetings held every several nights, when he 
chants a sermon which contains many references to the mythology and 
legendary history. These serve as precepts for proper behavior or alle- 
gorical parallels drawn with reference to misdemeanors occurring in the 
village. Other village officials are the adviser, a treasurer, and several 
men in charge of ceremonial preparations. 

The island villages of the San Bias Cuna are members of either of two 
political parties, each headed by a high chief, who is selected from among 
the village chiefs. Upon death of such a high chief the office shifts to an- 
other island with the election of his successor. Some of the Mainland Cuna 
villages are also affiliated with these two political parties. All this political 
organization has its roots in aboriginal practices, though some aspects of 
it, such as the treasurer and perhaps the sherifflike officials, have been 
added or at least intensified through contact with the early Spanish mis- 


Childbirth. — Birth takes place within an improvised enclosure in the 
house, from which men and children are excluded. A midwife assists 



[B.A.E. Bull. 143 

the laboring mother, and the child is born into a water-filled canoe placed 
beneath the hammock in which the mother lies. Outside of the enclosure 
a shaman sings the childbirth chants and supplies various medicines to 
the midwife according to her reports of progress. In addition to several 
food taboos observed by both husband and wife during pregnancy, the 
couvade is in force for 3 days after birth. Albino children have, in 
the past, often been killed at birth. 

Albinos, who constitute about 0.7 percent of the Ctina population, 
are not permitted to intermarry, and many of them have difficulty in 
finding mates among the brown members of the tribe. They are looked 
upon as weak and incapable of the full duties of adulthood, although 
they are thought to be more intelligent and to possess the power of driving 
away, with a small bow and arrow, the demons that devour the sun or 
moon during eclipses. 

Puberty ceremonies. — There are no puberty ceremonies for boys, but 
for girls there are two. At the first, held at the onset of puberty, the 
girl is placed in an enclosure for 4 days, during which her female relatives 
and their women friends pour great quantities of water over her, her hair 
is bobbed, and she is painted black. Chicha is brewed during the next 
several weeks to be drunk ceremonially with rum when a dance is held 
in her honor. 

The second ceremony, held a year or more after puberty, is actually 
a debut, for it serves as formal notice that the girl is now marriageable. 
It is a 4-day ceremony, during which the girl is kept in an enclosure and 
her hair is cropped. For this ceremony her parents accumulate large 
quantities of food and the materials for making several large jars of 
chicha. The ceremony itself is composed of many episodes, chief of 
which are those devoted to making the rattles and flageolets and other 
ceremonial equipment, such as painted balsa-wood planks (fig. 59), which 

Figure 59. — Cuna painted balsa planks, which serve as mnemonic devices for leaders 
in girls' second ceremony (length 1.26 m. (4 ft. 1J4 i"-))- (After Nordenskiold. 
1938, fig. 12.) 

Vol. 4] THE CUNA— STOUT 263 

serve as mnemonic devices for the ceremonial chanters. The entire cere- 
mony is under the direction of a leader whose position is achieved after 
years of training and assisting in ceremonies. It is his duty to sing the 
long chants relating to the origin of the debut ceremony. While doing 
so he lies in a hammock suspended in the center of the ceremonial house. 
The ceremony ends with a dance. 

Two items occupy very prominent positions in this and the puberty 
ceremony: long cigars and the braziers (pi. 49, c, e) in which cacao 
beans are burned. The braziers are kept in constant use and are tended 
by assistants. Each step of the ceremony is punctuated with chicha 
drinking and with use of the cigars, which are placed with the lit end 
in the mouth and blown so that the smoke passes over the face of the 
various leaders and their assistants. This use of cigars was first described 
in the 17th century (Wafer, 1903, pp. 102-103). 

Burial customs. — At death the deceased is sewn up in a hammock. 
Close relatives and friends mourn for a day and a night. A chant by 
a special chanter is often sung to insure safe journey to heaven. On 
the second day the body is carried to the cemetery — on the mainland 
in the case of the San Bias Cuna — and is there mourned over all day 
while two men dig the grave. Then the hammock is slung on two stakes 
in the grave, personal possessions are placed with the body, and the 
grave is filled in. Food, utensils, and furniture are placed on top. 


Little is known of the warfare of the Cuna or their ancestors in the 
early period. The chiefs and nobles were the warriors and one object 
of waging war was evidently to take slaves. One middle- 17th-century 
source (Requejo Salcedo, 1908, p. 128) credits the Cuna with the practice 
of killing enemy males whose blood was believed to be drunk by the sun. 
A special title was accorded men who had killed 20 such victims. A 
late- 17th-century account describes a war house in the center of each 
village. This was strongly built to withstand siege, for it had loopholes 
in the walls. That the Cuna were a warlike people is attested by the 
fact that neighboring groups, such as the Choc 6 and Catio, have a number 
of legends recounting skirmishes with the Cuna and by the numerous 
records pertaining to Cuna alliances with French and English pirates 
during the 17th and 18th centuries. 


Art. — Present-day art is almost entirely limited to the basketry designs, 
the fetishes carved by the men, the mnemonic picture writings, and the 
elaborate multicolored applique designs on the women's blouses. 


Games. — There are no organized competitive team games, and the play 
of the children evidently has always been largely an imitation of adult 

Dances. — There are ritual dances, most of which are imitations of 
animals, performed by individuals or small groups as episodes of the two 
ceremonies for girls. Group dances in which anyone may participate are 
held at the end of ceremonies. No singing or instrumental music ac- 
companies the former type, but the ceremonial leader sometimes plays 
his flute or other men may play panpipes for the group dances. 

Musical instruments. — The 16th-century sources ascribe large hollow- 
log drums and smaller skin-headed drums to the Cueva and others of 
Darien, and late in the 17th century the Cuiia were described as having 
bamboo drums. All these have dropped out of the culture since then. 
Instruments still retained are calabash rattles with deer-bone handles 
(fig. 60, d), panpipes, simple end-blown flutes (fig. 60, c), flutes with 
an attached air duct made of a bamboo tube to which a quill mouthpiece 
is fastened with a black wax (fig. 60, a), sets of single pipes of varying 
lengths played individually (fig. 60, b), bird-bone plug-flutes worn as 
necklaces, (fig. 60, e), and flutes made of an armadillo skull and bird 
bone (pi. 50, b). Most of these instruments are made in two styles, 
one for individual playing and the other in pairs of different pitch which 
are played in duet. Much of the music played on these wind instruments 
is antiphonal. 

Alcoholic beverages. — Chicha, one of the central features of the girls' 
ceremonies, is made from fermented maize or plantains mixed with sugar- 
cane juice. It is made and drunk only at ceremonies but is greatly 
enjoyed. Both sexes become quite intoxicated, and the women take 
considerable pains to revive their drunken husbands by swinging them 
in a hammock and sprinkling water on them. 


Everything in nature and all people are believed to have an indwelling 
spirit or soul. Souls of human beings are spoken of in both the singular 
and the plural. It is the abduction of one's soul that causes illness. Upon 
death the soul journeys to the afterworld. A second attribute of all 
animate things is a life principle, which leaves upon death. Some persons 
also ascribe this quality to certain inanimate objects, such as water, metal, 
and rocks. It is thought to have departed when these things boil away, 
rust, or are broken. A third attribute assigned to humans, animals, and 
evil spirits and demons is a power which manifests itself in sexual potency, 
braveness, and industriousness and which can be increased or decreased 
with medicines. Finally, all humans are thought to possess a varying 
number of predilections, faculties, abilities, and talents which are localized 




Figure 60. — Cutia musical instruments, a, Flute with attached air duct of bird 
quill, b, One of a set of single pipes, played in sets, one to a person, c, Simple 
end-blown flute used in ceremonies. (After Nordenskiold, 1938, fig. 10.) 
d, Rattle used in girls' ceremonies, e, Necklace of plug-flutes made of a bird bone. 
(After Izikowitz, 1935, figs. 44 and 219.) /, Panpipes. (After Nordenskiold, 
1938, fig. 11.) 


in the brain and which can be increased or decreased with medicines. 
Individual differences in skills and the sexual division of labor is ration- 
alized on the basis of this fourth attribute. 

The union of God and God's wife is the source of all things. A third 
deity, female in character, is in charge of the formation of human fetuses 
and endowing them with their attributes. These deities are never suppli- 
cated but are only addressed as creators in the various chants. God is 
omnipotent and omniscient, unforgiving, and stern of character. Death is 
predestined. It is still uncertain to what degree these conceptions of God 
and the supernatural world, the wooden fetishes, and the beliefs in pre- 
destination and punishment for sin are syncretisms of aboriginal. Catholic, 
and Huguenot beliefs. The design of the fetishes may possibly be ascribed 
to Negro influence. 

The world is thought of as a plane beneath which there are eight layers 
of the underworld and above which there are eight layers of heaven. The 
fourth layer of the underworld is the abode of the chiefs of the evil spirits, 
and it is through this layer that the souls of dead persons journey on their 
way to heaven. Heaven now has special places in it for albinos and for 
brown Indians. There are special places for people who have died from 
various causes (Requejo Salcedo, 1908, pp. 132-133). The sky is thought 
of as hemispherical and is pierced at one point. Through this hole a legen- 
dary shaman once crawled and consequently became bald. The cosmog- 
raphy also includes a sun ship and moon ship which traverse the sky 
daily carrying certain evil spirits and demons. 

Shamanism. — Shamans are of three sorts. The first and most numer- 
ous, to which both sexes may belong, are those who have learned the 
chants and medicines for curing specific illnesses. In most cases curing 
involves the recovery of the patient's soul, which has been abducted. The 
recovery is effected by means of a wooden fetish (pi. 51, a-e), the soul of 
which is addressed in a chant and instructed to retrieve the patient's soul 
from the evil spirit. These fetishes are named according to the kind of 
wood from which they are carved. Different illnesses are cured by 
specific woods. The design of the fetishes is incidental, though stereo- 
typed. Pepper pods and cacao beans are burned in braziers during the 
chants. The shamans often use mnemonic picture writings to assist them 
in learning the chants. Many also carry a staff surmounted with a fetish 
figure (pi. 50, r). 

The second type of shaman is much less numerous and specializes in 
curing whole villages stricken by epidemics. The evil spirit causing the 
epidemic is exorcised in a ceremony lasting for 8 days. The medicine 
man chants instructions to the souls of many large wooden fetishes (pi. 
51, /, g). Braziers and long cigars are also used. 

The third type of shaman is born to his status. He is usually a man, 
though a woman may attain this status if the proper signs (including a 

Vol. 4 J THE CUNA— STOUT 267 

caul) are present at her birth. In any case, a long course of training is 
necessary to validate this position. It is also possible to vitiate these 
powers in a child by administering certain medicine. The abilities of this 
third type center about their close rapport virith the supernatural world, 
particularly the evil spirits, enabling these persons to prognosticate, to 
find lost or stolen objects, and to diagnose illnesses with much greater 
accuracy than the lesser shamans. Their essential link with the super- 
natural world is the fetishes used either in dreams or while awake. 

Nearly all medicinal and magical practices are beneficial. The few 
sorcerers in the population are either of the first or third type of shaman, 
who overdevelop their abilities and talents with medicines. By so doing 
they become unwitting agents of the evil spirits. 

Evil spirits are everywhere in nature, and they cause all misfortunes. 
However, under some conditions the shamans may learn some cures from 
them. They are, like everything else in the world, the creation of God 
and serve as His agents of punishment as well as acting on their own 


The mythology, aside from the stories chronicling the creation by 
God, tells of how God destroyed the world by fire, darkness, and flood 
because the people sinned. The flood occurred 800 years ago, and after 
it there appeared a great personage who came to earth on a plate of gold 
and taught the people how to behave, what to name things, and how to 
use them. He was followed by a number of disciples who spread his 
teachings, and who, in turn, were followed by 10 great shamans, one of 
them a woman. These shamans had great powers over the elements. 
They investigated the underworld and heavens and discovered many 
medicines. These exploits grade into accounts of legendary chiefs and 
heroes who led the Cuna in their wars with the Spaniards and who led 
whole villages of the San Bias Cuna down from the mountains and out 
onto the islands. 

Combined with the myths are a number of tales in which animals are 
involved. One of these recounts the felling of the World Tree at the 
behest of one of the principal culture heroes. The people attempted to 
cut it down, but each time they left it a giant frog healed the cut over- 
night. After two such attempts the culture hero bade his brother to 
kill the frog, whereupon the tree was felled and from its top came fresh 
and salt water, croplands, plants, reptiles, mammals, fishes, and birds. 
Other animal tales involve pairs of adversaries, one of whom wins out 
through trickery. 


Knowledge of the medicines and medicine chants, the girls* ceremony 
chants, and the mythology is in the care of the various types of medicine 


men and the ceremonial leaders. It is all passed on to their pupils during 
long courses of training for which the pupils pay in labor or goods. 
Familiarity with this body of knowledge brings considerable prestige and 
is prerequisite to being elected chief or second chief. The picture writings 
(pi. 52) in which some of the mythological motifs are recorded and which 
serve as mnemonic devices for the medicine and ceremony chants may 
be a survival from aboriginal times. Nowadays they are made with 
colored crayons on paper. They are not standardized, for most men 
cannot read another man's picture writings. Some symbols stand for 
whole lines of the chants, others for single words or names of plants, 
animals, or objects. The medicines, most of which are made from plants 
or stones mixed with water, are administered internally or by bathing in 
them. They are usually based on a sympathetic or imitative principle 
They are prescribed and sold by the shamans and are used in connection 
with the curing chants or at intervals after such chants. Surgery is not 
practiced. In the 17th century, venesection bows were used (Wafer, 
1903, p. 54), but this practice has disappeared. 

The numerical system is decimal-vigesimal, there being a separate name 
for each unit up to 10, then 10 plus 1, 10 plus 2, etc., up to 20, which 
is named "tule" (human). Thereafter, units and lO's plus units are 
suffixed to 20 ; 40 is reckoned as two 20's, etc. The present-day numerical 
system has undoubtedly been expanded through the necessity for counting 
large numbers of coconuts. In measuring small spaces, hand span, arm 
length, etc., are used. Croplands are estimated in terms of the number 
of banana plants they will hold. 


Andagoya, 1865; Gasso, 1910-14; Krieger, 1926; Lehmann, 1920; Linne, 1929; 
Lothrop, 1937 ; Nordenskiold, 1928 a, 1928 b, 1938 ; Oviedo y Valdes, 1851-55 ; Requejo 
Salcedo. 1908; Stout, MS. ; Wafer, 1903; Wassen, 1934, 1937, 1938, 1940 a. 1940 b. 

Plate 49. — Cuna artifacts, a, b, Wooden seats, d, g, Women's applique 
blouses. (After Krieger, 1926, pis. 4 and 26.) c, e, Pottery braziers used in 
ceremonies (height of e, approximately 16 cm. (6}^ in.).) (After Nordenskiold, 
1938, figs. 13 and 14.) /, Basket with one series cf elements colored black 
with a wax (height, approximately 22 cm. (8^i in.).) (After Nordenskiold, 
1928 a, pi. 145.) 



Plate 50. — Cuna ceremonial objects, a, Leader's feather headdress (height, 
90 cm. (35J4 in.)). (After Wassen, 1938, pi. 1.) 6, Flute of armadillo skull 
and bird bones. (After Izikowitz, 1935, fig. 134.) c, Shaman's tutelary 
staff (drawing at left, 1 m. (3 ft. 3 in.) in height). (After Nordenskiold, 1938, 
fig. 29.) 






Plate 51. — Cuna wooden fetishes, a-e, Fetishes used to recover souls (re- 
spective heights: 22 cm. (8^^ in.), 32 cm. (12}^ in.), 22 cm. (8^^ in.), 24 cm. 
(9K in.), 30 cm. (11% in.)). (After Nordenskiold, 1938, figs. 25 and 26.) 
/, g, Fetishes used in mass curing ceremony or village exorcism (respective 
heights: 1.63 m. (4 ft. 7H in.) and 1.73 m. (4 ft. 11^ in.)). (After Wass6n. 
1938, fig. 26.) 

m ® 


16 15 14 13 12 11 10 9 

7 6 5 4 

t±d ® @ ® t-l: 

18 19 2 


17 18 19 20 21 22 
42 41 40 39 38 37 36, 

23 24 


20 27 28 



o d-® 

34 33 32 31 

30 29 

80 81 82 83 

43 44 45 40 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 50 57 58 
"^ "1 73 72 71 70 09 08 07 00 05 64 03 02 01 0(1 59 

76 77 78 79 80 81 

f^ # (i ® 1 

103 102 101 100 '99 98 
104 105 106 107 108 109 110 lU 

114 113 

98 97 

84 85 SO 87 88 89 90 

t» d # 

91 - 

95 94 93 92 91 

118 117 116 115 


121 120 119 

~#~ % % ^■ 

122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 


132 133 134 

Plate 52. — Cuna mnemonic picture writing. Section of a manuscript made by 
a shaman. It illustrates the beginning of a fever-curing chant in which certain 
stones are the curing agent. (After Nordenskiold, 1938, pi. 7.) 

Plate 53. — Choco artifacts, a, Pottery roof-apex cap (height, approximately 
1 m. (3 ft. 3 in.)). (After Nordenskiold, 1928 a, pi. 96.) h, Shaman's crown 
of painted wood and basketry. (After Krieger, 1926, pi. 23.) c, Wooden 
stamp for applying body paints (height, approximately 26 cm. (10}i in.)). 
(After Nordenskiold, 1928 a, fig. 35.) d, e, Painted bark cloth. (After 
Kreiger, 1926, pi. 19.) /, g, Shaman's fetish staff (/, incomplete; g, length, 
47 cm. (18H in.)). (After Wass6n, 1940 a, fig. I.) 

Plate 54.— Choco artifacts, o, Single-headed drum, b, Double-headed drum. 
(After Krieger, 1926, pi. 7.) c, Incised calabash (diameter, approximately 
35 cm (133/4 in)). (After Nordenskiold, 1928 a, fig. 22.) d, Wickerwork 
basket (height, approximately 15 cm. (6 in.)), e, f, Twilled baskets (height 
of each, approximately 13 cm. (5)4 in.)). (After Wass6n, 1935, figs. 19, 20.) 

Plate 55.— Choco artifacts, a, Curing hut (height, approximately 1 m. (3 ft. 
3 in.)). (After Nordenskiold, 1928 a, pi. 52.) h, Shaman's wooden model 
ships with spirits aboard (length, approximately 50 cm. (19^ in.)). (After 
Wass^n, 1935, fig. 34.) c, Painted slats of wood used in curing ceremonies 
(length, approximately 40 cm. (15% in.)). (After Nordenskiold, 1928 a. 
fig. 53.) 


By David B. Stout 



The relative importance of agriculture and hunting and fishing varies 
with the environment in which the several Choco groups live. Agricul- 
ture is limited to food crops — plaintains, bananas, sweet manioc, sugar- 
cane, maize, and several fruit trees. No tobacco or cotton is grown. 

Deer, peccaries, armadillos, agoutis, monkeys, and several species of 
birds are hunted with the bow and arrow and blowgun, and fish are caught 
with nets, spears, bows and arrows, and poisons. 

Domestic animals are dogs, pigs, chickens, and ducks. 


Dwellings are erected on piles and are scattered along the rivers. 
These houses are round and lack walls. The apex of the roof is often 
surmounted with a clay vessel (pi. 53, a). Several platforms for sleep- 
ing and storage are raised above the floor level. Hammocks are used 
only for children. Adults sleep on a pallet of bark cloth with their heads 
on wooden pillows. Other furniture includes 1 -piece wooden seats (fig. 
61) and mosquito nets. 

Figure 61. — Choco wooden seats and headrests. (Approximately % actual size.) 
(After Wassen, 1935, fig. 10.) 

* See map 6. The cultural data refer to the present day unless an earlier period is indicated. 

6S3334 — 48 19 269 



[B.A.B. Bull. 143 


Women wear a wrap-around skirt ; men, a loincloth held in place with 
a string. On occasion men also wear broad glass-bead girdles, crossed 
sashes of glass beads on their chest, necklaces of teeth or silver beads, 
silver earplugs (fig. 62, c), ear pendants, and sometimes silver cuffs and 
headbands. Silver nose ornaments are only occasionally worn now, 
though once they were common adornment of the men. Women wear 
necklaces of teeth but few or no silver ornaments. Both sexes wear 
flowers in their hair on festive occasions and frequently paint themselves 
with solid colors (fig. 62, a) or with red and dark blue designs applied 
with a 3- or 4-tined wooden fork (fig. 62, b) and with carved wooden 

Figure 62.— Choco body ornamentation, a, Body painting design ; b, wooden forks 
for applying body paints (^ actual size) ; c. wooden earplugs covered with silver 
iVi actual size). (After Wassen, 1935, figs. IS, 14.) 

Vol. 4] 



Stamps (pi. 53, c). Feather ornaments are not used. During ceremo- 
nies the Northern Choco and Catio men wear woven crowns decorated 
with upstanding, painted strips of wood (pi. 53, b). 


Most traveling is done in long, narrow dugout canoes which have 
platform ends. The Choco move about considerably within their territory, 
seeking new sites for their fields or performing obligations incurred by 
marriage between distantly located families. Men, particularly the sham- 
ans, travel great distances, even visiting the Cayapa in Ecuador. 


Bark cloth. — Until recently, bark cloth was beaten out of bark with a 
grooved mallet (pi. 53, d, e) and decorated with painted designs. 

Basketry. — Basketry is of many types and designs, most of it being of 
twilled (pi. 54, e, j) and wicker technique (pi. 54, d), though coiled varie- 
ties are also made (fig. 63) . 

Weaving. — Weaving has not been reported from the Choco during the 
past several hundred years. 

Figure 63. — Choco coiled basket. Technical detail at right. (Basket is slightly 
enlarged; detail approximately 3 times actual size.) (After Wassen, 1935, fig. 22.) 



[B.A.E. Bull. 143 

Calabashes. — Calabashes, frequently decorated with incised geometric 
and realistic designs, are used for storage and as dishes (pi. 54, c) . 

Ceramics. — Coiled pottery is made in a variety of shapes, often of 
anthropomorphic or zoomorphic design (figs. 64 and 65). 

Metallurgy. — Some of the silver ornaments are cold-hammered from 
coins or from silver obtained from traders. 

Weapons. — Bows and arrows are used. The latter are unfeathered 
and fitted with single or multiple points or with blunt heads. Blowguns 
are made of two grooved strips of wood wound with bast fiber and fitted 
with a sight. The poison darts are carried in a bamboo quiver to which 
is attached a calabash stuffed with light, fluffy fiber to be twisted on the 
dart shaft. Two poisons are used : ( 1 ) a vegetable poison, with a spe- 

FiGURE 64. — ChocS pottery. (After Nordenskiold, 1930, fig. 66.) 

Figure 65. — Choco pottery. (After Wassen, 1935, fig 

Vol. 4] THE CHOCO— STOUT 273 

cific cardiac effect, the first to be reported for the New World^; and (2) 
an animal poison, made by heating the exudation of the skin of a certain 
species of frog, which evidently paralyzes the respiratory muscles (Was- 
sen, 1935. pp. 90-108). 


All three groups of Choco appear to be exogamous, though to what 
extent is not known. Aside from this exogamy, there is also obligatory 
exogamy in reference to patrilineal lineages which may be clans. 

Playful fighting between father-in-law and prospective son-in-law and 
between bride and groom appears to be the extent of marriage cere- 
monies. Marriage residence, ideally patrilocal, actually is alternately 
patrilocal and matrilocal, for women have ownership rights in some of 
the agricultural plots ; consequently they and their husbands periodically 
return to the woman's parents' house to work her land. Thus each 
household, composed of several conjugal family units, has a constantly 
shifting membership. Monogamy prevails but polygyny is permitted. 
The oldest male in a household is regarded as its head and spokesman 
and may even direct community activities. There appears never to have 
been permanent chiefs wielding political power over large numbers or 
over large areas. The war leaders of former times seem to hava been 
simply temporary leaders chosen for their prowess. 


Childbirth. — Childbirth takes place in the forest. Men may not be 
present. No particular ceremony surrounds it among the Northern and 
Southern Choco, though the Catio mother takes a series of four baths 
beginning the fourth day after parturition. Some days after birth the 
child is painted entirely black. A year or so after birth a ceremony is 
held in which the shaman procures a guardian spirit for the child and 
gives it a doll in which the spirit Hves (fig. 66, c, d). 

Puberty. — There is no puberty ceremony for boys. At their first 
menstruation girls are secluded in the house. They must observe food 
taboos and must not scratch their heads with their fingers but instead use 
a short stick. 

Death. — Burial practices have not been described for the Northern and 
Southern Choco, but the Catio place their dead in a horizontal chamber 
reached by a vertical hole in the earth (Severino de Santa Teresa, 1924, 
p. 113). 


Art. — Much of Choco art is religious or magical in nature, for the bulk 
of it occurs in the pottery and numerous wooden objects used in the 

• The South American curare poisons differ from the poison of the ChocS. The latter contains 
a glucoside as its active ingredient. 



various ceremonies. The elaborate designs painted on the body (fig. 62, 
a) are used particularly at ceremonies. Some of the sculptured wooden 
fetishes are very similar to those of the Cuna. 

Games and toys.— Games and toys include simple tops, musical tops, 
wooden dolls, bull-roarers, and buzz disks (fig. 66, b-f). 


a e 

Figure dd.—Choco artifacts, a, Tutelary figure (length, 1.6 m. (4 ft. 11^ in)); 
6, bull roarer (length, 32 cm. (12/2 in.)) ; c, d, children's dolls containing tutelary 
spirits (1/6 actual size); e, buzz-disk; /, musical top (both J4 actual size); 
g, quipu— the closely spaced knots represent knives, the others hatchets {}i actual 
size). (After Wassen, 1935, figs. 33, 12, 11, and 35.) 

Vol. 4] THE CHOCO— STOUT 275 

Musical instruments. — Musical instruments include panpipes, end- 
blown flutes, simple pipes blown individually by several men at once, 
single- and double-headed skin drums, and canoe-shaped wooden gongs 
(pi. 56, left) suspended at one end and beaten with two short clubs. 

Drinks and narcotics. — Chicha is used in the ceremonies. A drug, 
made probably from Datura sanguinea, is used to induce dreams (Was- 
sen, 1935, pp. 101-102). 


The religion embraces a godlike culture hero, who is, however, not 
supplicated and has little concern with the daily affairs of the people. 
There are also a great many good and evil spirits. Some of these spirits 
are the souls of the good and bad persons who have died. Everyone is 
thought to have two souls ; one goes to heaven and the other remains on 

Shamanism. — Shamans are important in the religious life. They pass 
through a period of training, during which they make wooden ships (pi. 
55, b) on which are placed numerous sculptured figures representing 
various spirits. These are quite similar to the Cima sun and moon ships. 
They acquire a helping or guardian spirit which dwells in a fetish-staff. 
The shamans cure the sick and practice various types of witchcraft. 

Sick persons are believed to be possessed by evil spirits. A patient 
to be cured is placed in a little hut made of wooden slats (pi. 55, 
a). Representations of the evil spirits are painted on his back and on 
wooden slats hung nearby (pi. 55, c). The shaman exorcises the evil 
spirits with the aid of chants and the spirit dwelling in his fetish-staff. 
During these incantations, as well as those used when a tutelary spirit 
is obtained for the infants, chicha stored in zoomorphic and anthropo- 
morphic jars is drunk. An important episode in the ceremonies is the 
consecration of the chicha by the shaman. The chicha drinking does not, 
however, have the character of a drinking bout. 


The Choc 6 and Cuna have a creation myth in which the World Tree 
is cut down. The tree is the source of much in the world. There are 
myths and legends recounting Choc 6 skirmishes with the Cuna (Wassen, 
1935, pp. 122-123, 125-128), in which mention is made that the Choco 
once had thorny palisades around their houses. In addition, there are 
several legends pertaining to the time the Choco were enslaved by the 
Spaniards, and one tale, in which balsa rafts are mentioned, recounts 
some fighting with tribes to the south (Wassen, 1935, pp. 142-145). 



Simple quipus are used to keep count of days and months and for 
recording quantities of small objects (fig. 66, g). 


Krickeberg, 1922; Krieger, 1926; Lehmann, 1920; Nordenskiold, 1928 a, 1929; 
Severino de Santa Teresa, 1924; Wassen, 1933, 1935, 1940 b. 


By John Murra 


The Cayapa and the Colorado are the last surviving Indian groups in 
the lush western lowlands of Ecuador (maps 1 and 6). Once an area 
of extensive Indian occupation, western Ecuador is now inhabited jay a 
Spanish-speaking population of mixed Indian, Negro, and white ancestry, 
known as montuvios. The Cayapa and Colorado have precariously man- 
aged to hang on to their jungle homes. Speaking closely related if 
mutually unintelligible languages of the Barhacoan division of the Chib- 
chan family, they represent the southernmost extension of that major 
division. Comparative studies with other Chibchan-s^tdkmg groups in 
Highland and eastern Colombia, with Qzi^'c/zMo-speaking Indians in High- 
land Ecuador, and with various Montana groups should prove of consider- 
able culture-historical interest. 


The Cayapa are a riverain people inhabiting the lowlands of north- 
western Ecuador. Sprinkled through the jungles of Esmeraldas Province, 
an area of difficult colonization and control, they managed for centuries 
to avoid the enslavement suffered by their Highland neighbors or the 
ethnic annihilation of most Coast aborigines. Only in the past few 
decades have their settlements been pushed back into the hills by Spanish- 
speaking montuvio and Negro homesteaders. World War II require- 
ments in balsa wood, rubber, and other tropical commodities have ac- 
celerated this process of displacement and acculturation. 

The Cayapa River and its afifluents, from the mouth of the Anzole to 
the foot of the Andes, are the main area of Cayapa settlement. Barrett 
(1925) found three concentration spots: Punta Venado, Sapayo Grande, 
and San Miguel, corresponding to three political, tribal divisions, which 
might since have shifted or amalgamated. In addition, small groups of 
Cayapa, in various degrees of acculturation, are found in the Santiago 
Valley and along the coast into Colombia. Estimates of their numbers 
vary but hover around a mean of 2,000. 

The chief source and authority on the Cayapa remains S. A, Barrett's 
monograph (1925). Barrett visited them in 1908-9, long enough to bring 



back an exhaustive account of their subsistence pattern and material cul- 
ture as well as considerable data on religion and ceremonial life. Accord- 
ing to modern interests, the report is weak in life-cycle data and economics, 
and a serious drawback is the almost complete lack of comparative con- 
siderations. Moreover, it describes a culture with marked European 
influences. Nevertheless, at this writing, it remains one of our most 
complete accounts of an aboriginal South American group. The remain- 
ing titles in the bibliography refer to linguistic treatises, hearsay accounts, 
and phantasies of hurried travelers. 

The inaccessibility of their habitat facilitated the Cayapa's survival into 
the 20th century, but it also prevented most chroniclers from visiting their 
land. Early references to naked and painted Indians living along the Patia 
River in large houses on tall poles and wearing gold ornaments might 
refer to the Cayapa or to some other Chibchan people. Jijon y Caamano 
(1940-45, vol. 2) has reproduced fragments from an unpublished Cabello 
Balboa chronicle discussing the people of Esmeraldas Province during the 
16th century. Among the peoples figuring prominently in Cabello Balboa's 
report are the Nigua, an Indian group inhabiting traditional Cayapa 
territory. Jijon y Caamafio's suggestion (1940-45, vol. 2) that the Nigua 
and Cayapa are one people seems tentatively acceptable. 

Both peoples claimed to have descended from the Andean Highlands, 
though it is unclear if they were refugees from the Inca or Spanish in- 
vasions. As reported by Barrett, this tradition is very strong even now, 
four centuries after the Conquest, permeating various divergent activities 
of the Cayapa, who date many techniques and artifacts in terms of pre- or 
post-migration practices. In 1907 Beuchat and Rivet had pointed to topo- 
nymic and archeological similarities between Esmeraldas Province and the 
Cara country in the Highlands. Later work by Jijon y Caamaiio (1912, 
1919, 1940-45, vol. 2) has strengthened the case for Chibchan affiliation of 
the Cara language and given a measure of confirmation to native tradition. 


Agriculture is the main occupation of the Cayapa, although fishing and 
hunting supply a large percentage of their food. Each house is surrounded 
by clearings and fields, and additional clearings are customarily made away 
from the river, in the bush. Most families have fields of plantains, bana- 
nas, sugarcane, coca, and sweet manioc (yuca) ; in addition, cotton, to- 
bacco, maize, yams, and pineapples are frequently cultivated. Many wild 
plants are encouraged through weeding and other care. 

Plantains (pi. 60, bottom, right) form the staple food of the Cayapa, 
and each family will have several acres planted to this perennially ripening 
fruit. Bananas are fed to the hogs and cover an acreage almost as large 


as that of the plantain. Almost every family owns its cane mill and dis- 
tillery, which are supplied by the omnipresent canefields. 

With all this emphasis on agriculture, the Cayapa are, nevertheless, a 
jungle people, skilled hunters of many species of rodents, deer, felines, 
peccaries, armadillos, and birds. Life at the riverside encourages and is 
encouraged by dependence on fish, crustaceans, shellfish, and crocodile 
eggs. Under aboriginal conditions the Cayapa were probably never hungry. 

Hogs and chickens are now kept everywhere. Dogs are not conspicu- 
ously reported. 

Food is mostly boiled, though frequently meat will be broiled or baked. 
Surpluses are dried and smoked. 


Though maps traditionally locate Capaya "villages," these are nothing 
but agglomerations of three or four houses and a church. The houses 
stand empty most of the year and are used only at holidays when the 
priests visit the Cayapa. 

The actual habitations of the people are spread through the jungle, 
always at riversides (pi. 57, top) and usually isolated from one another 
by fields or even uncleared stretches. The houses stand on high poles 6 
to 12 feet off the ground and are reached by removable ladders. The roof 
is thatched with palm leaves (pi. 57, center) , and the rectangular house is 
virtually unenclosed. Sometimes the house floor is separated into two 
parts, one for cooking, the other for sleeping and eating. One chief had 
a large house (pi. 57, bottom) which could seat 40 people and which had 
more than two "rooms." The furniture is scanty: hammocks are used 
for sitting and sleeping, and wooden seats are sometimes found. An at- 
tempt by Barrett to correlate these seats with the famous stone seats of 
Manabi (Handbook, vol. 2, p. 780) seems very inconclusive. 

In addition to permanent houses, small temporary ranchos are some- 
times built when people are far from home. The houses in the "village" 
are standard structures, but the church follows Spanish ways : it rests on 
the ground and has walls. 


Although Cayapa tradition records a period when the people wore 
blankets and even ponchos, today their clothes are scanty (pi. 59, bottom). 
The men wear a tight, small, white garment, made like bathing trunks, and 
a thin gaudy shirt of calico, with short and very tight sleeves. On festive 
occasions vests of European cut and manufacture are frequently donned 
over the shirt, and so are felt fedoras. 

Women wear a long skirt of native cloth, girded with a narrow fringed 
belt. As in the Highlands, several skirts of different weights are some- 
times worn. Head, shoulders, and chest are usually left bare. 


Children wear no clothes at all until they are 6 or 8. 

The hair is worn loose, long, and flowing by the women but is clipped 
above the ears by the men. Both sexes wear necklaces and wristbands of 
glass and porcelain beads, coins, seeds, and beetle wings. Only women 
wear earrings. 

The traditional Chibcha custom of frequently painting body and face is 
found among the Cayapa. Red, yellow, and black are used, and the de- 
signs are very numerous. Barrett reproduces many of the motifs and 
insists that there is no special significance attached to any of them, nor is 
there any age, sex, or property correlation. 


Watercraft. — A large part of every Cayapa' s life is spent on the water 
fishing and traveling. Canoes are built with great skill and care. They 
can withstand not only fluvial but also maritime travel and are routinely 
sold in the "civilized" coast towns. They are dugouts, usually 10 to 12 
yards long but sometimes much larger. Balsa-wood logs are sometimes 
used as outriggers. 


Details of Cayapa manufactures are contained in Barrett's work, which 
describes and illustrates finished products and minutely discusses the tech- 
niques of preparation. 

Woodworking. — Woodworking includes house building, making dead- 
fall traps, and carving seats and children's dolls. 

Weaving and basketry. — The women weave cotton cloth on a narrow 
native loom, and the men do the sewing. The men also weave the fishing 
nets and hammocks. Barrett's discussion of Cayapa basketry is outstand- 
ing. The Cayapa make many kinds of baskets, mats, and fans of bark and 
of various roots. 

Pottery. — Pottery is crude and undecorated. It is used particularly for 
storage. Tradition claims that in their old Highland habitat the Cayapa 
made better pottery but that calabashes have since largely replaced cera- 

Stonework and metalwork. — Stonework is limited to the metates 
used in grinding corn and plantains. Although in aboriginal times Low- 
land Ecuador was a famous area of metallurgy, there is no evidence that 
the contemporary Cayapa practiced it. 

Weapons. — The weapon most widely used today is the muzzle-loading 
shotgun. The blowgun was important in the past, but today its use is 
restricted to boys, who shoot poison darts while playing at hunting. Hard- 
wood lances are being given up, and the bow and arrow is said not to be 
mentioned in Cayapa tradition. The steel machete is ubiquitous. 



The Cayapa economic unit is the virtually self-sufficient, one-family 
household. Land is owned and worked familially, and there is as much 
land to be had as the family can clear. If any special rules govern dis- 
tribution and inheritance, they are not reported by our sources. Also, there 
seem to be very few provisions for interhousehold cooperation : men will 
help a neighbor bring down a tree trunk from the hills, but all other ac- 
tivities are evidently left to individual enterprise. 

This self-sufficiency does not apply to all spheres of activity. Machetes 
and rifles are essential in jungle life, and most families make at least one 
trip a year to the coast for trading and social purposes. In the small 
Ecuadorean and Colombian towns they find a ready market for rubber, 
tagua nuts, and other forest products. Cocoa is grown specifically for this 
trade. There is also a limited market for some of their manufactures: 
canoes, mats, fans, and other basketry. In exchange, the Cayapa want 
metal goods : axes, machetes, shotguns, fishhooks, fish spears, and copper 
tubing for their distilleries. But they also like beads and mirrors, pearls, 
vests, and old derby hats. In recent years machine-made muslins and 
calicoes have been edging out native-made cloth. 

The Cayapa are not yet incorporated in Ecuadorean economy. Their 
need for metal goods and trinkets has not yet forced them to work on 
plantations or in placer gold mines. Their own supply of rum has helped 
them avoid debts contracted for alcohol, and they have usually retreated 
into the forest when their self-sufficiency has been menaced. It is im- 
probable that this selective acculturation can last very long. 


The basic Cayapa social unit is the household. Though there is no 
definite indication as to size and composition, it appears to be an extended 
family including normally no more than 10 to 12 people. Chief Antonio 
Napa's house at Punta Venado could seat some 40-odd people at a feast, 
but it was unique in size, and the Napa household according to Basurco 
<1894) had only 8 to 10 members. 

Barrett (1925) presents a detailed chart of kinship terms used by the 
Cayapa. We unfortunately know nothing about the behavior that goes 
with the terms or about marriage rules. On the face of it the system is a 
"lineal" one — collateral relatives are separated from lineal ones but are 
not differentiated among themselves. Thus, the term for uncle applies to 
both paternal and maternal ones. All terms are highly descriptive. There 
is no evidence of reciprocal use of terms, but Barrett's chart is not really 
complete. The system is quite unique and interesting. 

The lineal and descriptive nature of the kinship system emphasizes the 
bilateral character of the Cayapa family. There is no clan organization. 
The extended family household is the truly basic social unit. There is 


some evidence of patrilocality, which might be reflected in the closer group- 
ing of terms for fraternal nephews and great-nephews. But the patrilineal 
bias does not seem very strong. Within the family, men do all the fishing 
and hunting, the women all the food gathering, cooking, child rearing, and 
weaving. Men always do the sewing. Women make baskets, mats, and 
all the pottery. The two sexes cooperate in agriculture, the men clearing 
the fields, their wives tending the crops and harvesting. They also co- 
operate in the distillation of rum and the paddling of canoes while on trips. 

Politically, the Cayapa tribe is divided into three parts : Punta Venado, 
Sapayo Grande, and San Miguel. Each has its chief (gobernador) and 
a full complement of Spanish-titled officials: secretario, teniente politico, 
alcalde, comisario, capitan, and sargento. The governor carries a cane 
of black chonta wood with a silver head symbolizing his authority. Bar- 
rett feels that in most cases Spanish nomenclature was imposed on 
aboriginal positions. All offices are hereditary in the patrilineal line, 
but the new job holder needs the confirmation of the priest. The main 
duties of this leadership deal with the enforcement of law and order and 
the dispensation of justice. 

None of these positions is a full-time duty, and there is no material 
compensation for exercising them. The chief has the largest house along 
the river, where he holds court and supervises punishments. He is quite 
responsive to public opinion and enjoys considerable prestige. 


The Cayapa pride themselves on their peaceable relations with their 
neighbors. Tradition records no war since the mythological Indios 
Bravos were defeated and driven from the country. Lances and blow- 
guns were used principally for war. 


Childbirth. — There are few restrictions placed on the mother at child- 
birth. Heimann's (1931-32) report of the couvade is specifically con- 
tradicted by Barrett. Godparents baptize the infant, who takes their name. 
Children are never punished, and even the universal annual ceremonial 
whipping omits the young. Extremely friendly relations between siblings 
seem to be the rule. When very young, both boys and girls begin to 
help in adult activities or to engage in them playfully with diminutive 
tools. Canoeing, farming, and baby tending are all mastered before the 
child is 10 years old. 

Puberty and marriage. — Barrett could find no puberty rites for either 
sex. He suggests that courtship was left to the young people. The 
chief marries them at a feast, where they are lectured and whipped. Like 
succession in political office, marriage must be confirmed by the priest. 


Death. — ^Death is not considered to be a natural phenomenon but is 
attributed to the presence of malevolent spirits in the body. A dead 
man's soul hovers around his house, which is usually abandoned, though 
it may be dismantled and sold. The corpse is buried in a coffin in a 
Catholic-style cemetery near the church. The dead man's possessions 
are usually given away, but it is not known who inherits his fields and 


Art. — The great range of designs used by the Cayapa in their face and 
body painting has already been mentioned. There is a similar variety 
in the geometric figures used to ornament their canoes. There are no 
design names, nor is there any apparent significance in their variation. 
Animals are sometimes painted on canoes destined for the market, but 
only geometric designs satisfy the native consumer. 

Textile decoration, particularly on women's skirts, differs from canoe 
and body painting in its emphasis on realistic motifs. Men, mammals, 
reptiles, birds, fishes, and parts thereof are frequently woven into the 
cloth. Interestingly enough, in both design and execution this orna- 
mentation resembles very closely the decoration used by Highland Indians 
on their belts (fajas). 

Calabash dishes frequently have an incised design below the rim. 

Canoe paddles and wooden seats are sometimes ornamented with carved 
images, and children usually play with carved wooden dolls. 

Music and dancing. — Holidays, weddings, and other feasts are accom- 
panied by much dancing and drinking. As elsewhere along the coast, the 
European marimba is widely used, as are panpipes, flutes, drums, and 
rattles. In recent years the Highland San Juan dance has been gaining 
in popularity. Also of immediate Highland provenience may be the small 
European wooden harp with palm-fiber strings. 

Toys. — Children's activities are usually imitative of adult pursuits. 
Complete sets of diminutive artifacts are made for the children. Blow- 
guns are given the boys. Only dolls and tops seem to be specifically 
children's toys. 

Alcoholic beverages. — There is no evidence of the use of narcotics. 
Guarapo, the fermented juice of sugarcane, and rum, its distilled by- 
product, are both made and liberally drunk by the people at appropriate 


Native Cayapa religion has blended with many Roman Catholic prac- 
tices. Baptism, marriage, and political office must be confirmed by the 
priest. Masses are told for the souls of the dead, and Easter and Christ- 
mas are celebrated whenever the priest happens to visit the community. 


But the soul is believed to linger after death, and the methods used to 
encourage its departure are strictly aboriginal. A young couple's mar- 
riage may not be consummated until solemnized by the visiting padre, 
but the admonitions of the village chief to both bride and groom reinforce 
the authority of native jurisdiction. The annual Easter whipping of the 
whole community is also native. 

Barrett could find no clear-cut creatixDn story. The universe is believed 
to be made up of three superimposed worlds, with human life centered 
on the middle one. Men share this middle world with many spirits, 
some malevolent and other benevolent, all of whom are busy affecting 
human happiness and goals. 

Sometimes the spirits must be exorcised, as when they cause illness. 
For this a shaman is called, and, with the cooperation of neighbors, he 
drives out the spirits amid much singing, smoking, and sprinkling. The 
shaman also may suck out the cause of illness. 

Almost anyone can become a shaman by undergoing intensive training 
and acquiring a set of spirit helpers. There seems to be no "predestina- 
tion" for this career, though Barrett was apparently unable to get enough 
information on this point. Like the chief, the shaman is not a full-time 

Because of his magic control of spirit powers, the shaman can be a 
force for evil as well as for good. It is he who causes illness and eventu- 
ally death. There is a great deal of similarity between the behavior and 
the paraphernalia of the Cayapa shaman and that of the Highland medi- 
cine man. 


The Colorado, or, as they prefer to call themselves, Tsatchela or 
Tatchila Indians, share with the Cayapa the distinction of being the last 
surviving aboriginal group in the Lowlands of western Ecuador. The 
two groups know about each other and even occasionally visit back and 
forth; but they speak mutually unintelligible languages, and their ways 
of life are quite distinct. 

In contrast to the Cayapa, the Colorado are rapidly disappearing. 
Their territory and their numbers have been shrinking constantly, and 
one can easily foresee the time when the group will become extinct. They 
have not been able to withdraw before the pressure of "civilization," and 
they have been incorporated to a large degree into the Highland plantation 
system known as concertaje. The area they occupy on the upper reaches 
of several afifluents of the Esmeraldas and Daule Rivers in the western 
part of Pichincha Province has been an area of heavy colonization in 
recent decades. During World War II an all-weather road was opened 
which increased the area's accessibility to colonization from the High- 

Plate 57. — Cayapa houses and village. Top: Typical dwelling along river. 
Center: Unfinished house showing roof structure. Bottom: Chief's house at 
Sapayo Grande. (After Barrett, 1925.) 

Plate 58— Colorado houses, early 20th century. 

pp. 192, 190.) 

(After Rivet, 1905, opp. 

Plate 59. — Colorado and Cayapa Indians. Top: Colorado, early 20th century. 
Bottom: Cayapa, same period. (After Rivet, 1905, opp. p. 186, and Barrett, 
1925, p. 23.) 

Plate 60. — Colorado and Cayapa Indians. Top {hfl}: Colorado man, early 
20th century. Top (right): Tsatchela (Colorado) man wearing silver nose 
ornament. Bottom (left): Tsatchela (Colorado) men playing marimba. Bot- 
tom (right): Cayapa harvest of plantains. (After Rivet, 1905, opp. p. 178; 
after Von Hagen, 1939, pis. 7, 10; and after Barrett, 1925, pi. 60.) 


Santo Domingo de los Colorados and San Miguel are the two centers 
of Colorado life. There are only about 300 Colorado left today. There 
ii> some evidence that their numbers were much larger in the past and 
that their territory extended considerably farther south along the Daule 
Valley. One of Buchwald's (1924) informants mentioned Babahoyo as 
the southern limit of the tribe's wanderings. 

Tradition brings the Colorado from the Highlands. They speak a 
dialect of the Barhacoan division of the Chihchan family and are pre- 
sumably related to the Cara, a Highland Chihchan group. Jijon y 
Caamaiio (1940-45, vol. 2) has identified them with the Campaces who, 
according to 16th-century chroniclers, inhabited the Daule Valley. This 
identification is quite suggestive. According to Cabello Balboa, they were a 
warlike people, lacking chiefs and being very idolatrous. Cieza de Leon 
(1932) described a group of hill people (Serranos) who preferred hunt- 
ing to agriculture, practiced frontooccipital skull deformation, and 
blackened their teeth. These people have also been suggested as the 
ancestors of the Colorado, the last two practices being common to both. 

Whatever their ancestors or their location at the time of the Conquest, 
the Colorado were met in about their present location by the Jesuits 
toward the end of the 17th century. In the 18th century they took part 
in a rebellion along with several other Lowland groups. The opening 
of the 19th century found them 3,000 strong in about their present loca- 
tion. They were numerous enough then to support a full-time priest. 

In recent decades they have been visited and described by two 
ethnologists and one naturalist (Rivet, 1905; Karsten, 1924; Von Hagen, 
1939). While none of these descriptions or even the three combined give 
an adequate account of Colorado life, they are enough to stimulate our 
interest in this small but ethnologically significant population. 


The Colorado are a forest people, but their hunting and fishing interests 
are backed by a well-developed agriculture. Houses are surrounded with 
fields, and each household clears and plants several more fields in the 
jungle. Here, as in the Cayapa country, the plantain is the staple crop, 
and each family has a few thousand trees. Yuca, yams, peppers, and 
cacao also grow in the immediate neighborhood of the house. The more 
distant fields are planted to maize, rice, manioc, sugarcane, pineapples, 
oranges, and lemons, as well as to medicinal plants and fish poison. 

Fishing is intensively practiced with nets, traps, and hooks, but particu- 
larly with barbasco, a native plant, the roots of which contain a drug 
which stupefies the fish, after which they float and may be easily collected. 
Hunting is not very productive in this long-inhabited area, but deer, 

653334 — 48 20 


monkeys, and agoutis are frequently bagged. The muzzle-loading shot- 
gun is now the chief hunting weapon. At the opening of the century 
Rivet still saw several blowguns in use. Clay pellets (not darts) were 
used in these weapons. 

Pigs, chickens, guinea pigs, and dogs are the domestic animals. 

The diet of the Colorado reflects the fact that their area now has far 
less game than that of the Cayapa. It is chiefly vegetal, plantains in their 
many varieties being the staple, with rice, yuca, and maize supplementing 
the menu. Food is steamed, boiled, and broiled. 


Like the Cayapa, the Colorado have no real villages. The church and 
the abandoned house of the priest mark the theoretical location of the 
village, but the Indians live dispersed through the forest, each house 
separated from the next by clearings or even by jungle. 

Colorado houses are not mounted on poles, but architecturally they are 
otherwise of a general Chibcha type. They are really large barns, without 
walls, covered with a palm-thatched roof supported by chonta posts (pi. 
58). Frequently the house has two sections, one of which, being used 
for sleeping, is sometimes walled in. People sleep on balsa-wood beds 
which stand a foot off the ground. A circular enclosure is usually pro- 
vided near the house for the pigs. 


In 1810, Colorado men are reported to have worn the short, tight 
"swimming trunks" or drawers worn also by the Cayapa. A century 
later they were wearing a cotton cloth with blue and white stripes wrapped 
around their hips and reaching to their knees (pi. 59, top). A red cotton 
belt kept the cloth in place. Their shoulder garment, a small square of 
cotton cloth, remained the same since Stevenson's (1825) visit. This 
diminutive poncho covered only the shoulders and chest, not the arms 
or stomach. 

Men's hair is cut at ear length, parted, and combed sideways. Adult 
males keep it in place by wearing in it a crown of white cotton thread 
(pi. 60, top, left). In Stevenson's time they wore a silver lace fillet. 
Various Ecuadorean Highland and Coast tribes wore such hair decoration 
at the time of the Conquest. Until today men wear silver bracelets, which 
have to be bought in Quito. A nose plug of wood is worn under ordinary 
circumstances and an ornate one of silver (pi. 60, top, right) on festive 

No changes seem to have occurred in women's fashions since Steven- 
son's visit in 1810. Women still wear a long wrap-around skirt made of 
the same material as men's skirts. Chest and arms remain bare, although 


many men now wear a colored calico shawl thrown over their shoulders 
and tied in front at the neck. 

The hair is allowed to grow long and is worn parted in the middle and 
thrown back over the shoulders. Many rows of glass-bead necklaces are 
worn, replacing and sometimes coexisting with earlier adornment, which 
included sheaths of vanilla beans, seeds, armadillo tails, and other forest 
products. Bracelets and ankle beads are also frequently worn. 

The Colorado ("red" in Spanish) receive their name from the profusion 
of red paint with which they cover their bodies at all times. The paint 
is applied from head to foot, the hair receiving a particularly liberal appli- 
cation. Although the Cayapa and many other groups in the mountains 
paint their bodies and faces, none carry it to the extreme of the Colorado. 
This group believes that contacts with forest and stream and their spirits 
require the magical protection of red paint. As all life is spent in the 
jungle, the practice is logical enough. The pigment comes from the seed 
of cultivated achiote or bixa. Women paint only their faces, and, on festive 
occasions, both sexes use black-line drawings made on this red base for 
special ornamentation. Teeth are also darkened with a black pigment. 

Frontooccipital skull deformation is not now practiced, but in 1903 
Rivet could still see numerous individuals so adorned. 


The opening of roads to the Highlands has accelerated the introduction 
of many articles which are replacing native manufactures. Nevertheless 
the Colorado still weave baskets and mats, make large pottery vessels in 
which to ferment cane juice, and weave the cotton cloth used in both men's 
and women's skirts. Pottery pipes are also made, but most containers are 
of calabash. No native metallurgy is practiced, and the native weapons, 
blowguns and bows, have been replaced by the muzzle-loader. Hollow 
treetrunk mortars are used for pounding plantains and maize, and a sugar- 
cane press is owned by most families. The Colorado do not build canoes. 


Our sources neglected data on economic phenomena beyond immediate 
subsistence. Some interhousehold cooperative effort was apparently in- 
volved in the clearing and preparation of fields, but what obligations this 
in turn created remain unknown. Fish poisoning is a group activity, and 
its products are divided equally among participants. Otherwise, each 
household seems self-sufficient. 

In recent decades there has been a growing emphasis on production for 
the market. Rubber, balsa wood, jaguar skins, and other forest products 
find a steady market, while cacao has been grown for some time even 
though it is not consumed by the people. In exchange, the Colorado want 


machetes, shotguns, axes, fishhooks, combs, beads, bracelets, cabuya fiber 
for nets, and recently shawls and cotton yarn for women. According to 
Buchwald (1924), arrow poison was much in demand in the old days, 
and Colorado crossed the Andes to obtain it from the Canelo living in the 
eastern lowlands. Store bread is considered a delicacy, and a trip to Quito 
did not seem too far to go for it in Rivet's time. 

The coming of Ecuadorean colonization in the 20th century created a 
need for labor which the Colorado have been induced to supply. Planta- 
tions of cacao, rubber, and sugarcane have utilized the Indian's need for 
store goods, ornaments, and liquor to attach him permanently to the 
hacienda labor force and maintain him in debt. Nor has there been any 
attempt to protect the Indian lands which are now incorporated in Ecua- 
dorean holdings. An Indian attached to a plantation is known here as in 
the Highlands as a concierto and owes as much as IS days of work a month 
to his creditors. 


The household is the basic social unit as well as the almost self-sufficient 
economic one. We have mentioned above the few data available on inter- 
household cooperation. 

Social relations within the household were not studied by our observers, 
who spent only a very short time in the area. We know that a male child 
inherits his father's surname and a girl that of her mother. But we do 
not know the extent of the exogamous unit nor any further restrictions 
on marriage partners. Wiener (1882) states that orphans could choose 
anybody for a mate. 

Men and women cooperate extensively in cultivation and harvesting as 
well as in the transportation of various products to market. In addition, 
men clear the fields, hunt, fish, and make nets, while women cook, tend the 
offspring and the domestic animals, and weave. The two sexes eat sepa- 

The small size of the present-day Colorado community has obliterated 
any political organization that might have existed earlier. In 1903 Rivet 
found a gobernador who exercised much the same authority as the Cayapa 
governor : he performed marriages and insured the preservation of law, 
order, and morality. In 1936 Von Hagen found that leadership had shifted 
to the shaman, who now exercised authority, civil and spiritual alike. This 
shift of authority, if it be real and not due to faulty observation, would 
make an interesting subject of further study. 

In the town of Santo Domingo de los Colorados, which is now an 
Ecuadorean town and is not inhabited by any Colorado, the Federal Gov- 
ernment maintains a teniente politico whose duties are manifold and vague. 
They do not include the protection of the Indian or his land. 



Childbirth. — Colorado women take childbearing easily, lying down 
only at delivery and returning to their duties the next day. Both parents 
observe a few food taboos for several days until the navel of the child has 
healed. There is a set of godparents for each child, and they baptize the 
infant. The hacienda owners frequently act as godparents in modern times. 

Children grow up in a very permissive environment. Rivet saw a 
3-year-old still nursing. 

Puberty and marriage. — Boys undergo a nose-piercing rite at 10 or 
12 years of age. The shaman perforates the nose from septum to right 
nostril and eventually introduces a permanent wooden nose plug in the 
aperture. At this time the boy begins to paint his body and face, as well 
as to wear the cotton-fiber "crown" in his hair. He also drinks nepe 
(a narcotic with medicinal and magical properties) for the first time. Our 
observers record no puberty ceremonies for girls. 

Marriage takes place soon after puberty for girls, somewhat later for 
boys. Von Hagen "gathered" that the swain had to help his potential 
father-in-law, but we have no details on the extent or importance of this 
bride service, which is important elsewhere is South America. Marriage 
is now performed by the shaman but was once the "governor's" job. It is 
an occasion for a great feast with much drinking, music, and dancing. The 
man wears his silver nose plug instead of the wooden one for this occasion. 
The marriage is, nevertheless, not considered final until confirmed by the 
Dominican padre who sometimes visits the settlement. 

Death. — At death the body is clothed in the best finery. The relatives 
guard the body for a day, weeping, crying, drinking, and, according to 
Weiner, even dancing. Special games with rubber balls or burning balsa 
wood are played at burial feasts to help the mourners stay awake. This 
will prevent the spirits that cause disease and death from molesting the 
survivors. Similar deathbed games are played by Highland Indians. 

The body is buried in a shroud under the house floor. The dead man 
is lifted off the ground on several short poles and has a platform covering 
him. He thus does not touch earth either above or below. A string is 
tied around the deceased's neck and connected with the roof of the house. 
The belief is that this string will facilitate the departure of the soul. 

At this point the house is abandoned, the relatives leaving only a candle 
and some food. At full moon the oldest relative might come back and 
gingerly touch the string. When it is rotten enough to break at the touch, 
the soul is gone. According to Karsten, who visited the Colorado in 1917, 
the dead are not buried in the house but outside in the forest. A small 
rancho is erected over the tomb and the string attached as above. Even so, 
the house is abandoned. 



Art. — With the increased use of objects of foreign manufacture, Colo- 
rado art work has been seriously reduced. Cotton cloth is woven in blue 
and white without any particular ornamentation. Most of the jewelry 
comes from the outside. 

Music and dances. — Colorado music and musical instruments have 
been affected by both the Lowland Negro and the Highland Spanish and 
Quechua influences. The two-man marimba is widely used (pi. 60, bottom, 
left), along with the Highland three-string violin. Flutes, balsa-wood 
drums, and rattles are also used. The dances today are of Highland in- 

Alcoholic beverages. — The Colorado prepare several fermented drinks 
of sugarcane juice and mashed banana, manioc, or maize. Guarapo and 
malakachisa are both made of cane juice and are considered indispensable 
at feasts and holidays. The Colorado do not distil their own rum and have 
come to depend on outside sources for it. This dependence has been the 
chief mechanism of the extension to the area of Highland debt slavery. 

In addition, the Colorado use nepe (cayapi), the narcotic infusion of a 
local vine (Banisteriopsis caapi). Its effects include mild stupefaction, and 
it is used in curing and ceremonial life. 


Religious life, like other aspects of Colorado culture, shows three differ- 
ent influences: aboriginal Chibcha, Highland Quechua, and Spanish 
Catholicism. The last is most pronounced in formal observances. 

The Colorado community can no longer afford the services of a full- 
time priest as they could in 1810. Nevertheless, the attachment of the 
people to Catholic ritual and observances is very great. No baptism or 
marriage is definitive until the native ceremony has been confirmed by 
the Dominican priest who visits the community. Masses for the souls of 
the dead, prayer meetings, and the circulation of images all take place at 
this time at enormous expense to the Indians, 

Nevertheless, Catholic beliefs and ceremonies have not obliterated native 
notions about the supernatural. The soul of the dead might go to heaven, 
but it does so along the string attached to the roof from the dead man's 

Cotopaxi and Chimborazo, the two snow-covered volcanoes high up in 
the Andes, play an important role in the native creation story, just as they 
do among Highland Indians. 

There are many spirits, some benevolent and others revengeful and 
malicious, who roam the earth. The latter can cause disease and thunder, 
and they multiply jaguars and the venomous snakes. Shamans are neces- 


sary to handle these spirits and to invoke the counteroffensive of the 
benevolent ones. 

The shaman, particularly in recent times, is a very powerful man. The 
reputation of Colorado shamans has spread even to the Highlands, and 
they frequently are brought up to ply their trade. Nor is their clientele 
always Indian. 

Curing is the main activity of the shaman. Diseases are due to witch- 
craft, sharp chonta spines being sent into the sick man's body. The native 
narcotic, nepe, is drunk by both curer and patient, and, after much drinking 
of brandy, beating of rattles and drums, and dancing in a trance, the chonta 
spine causing the ailment is extracted for all to see. 


Barrett, 1925 ; Basurco, 1894; Beuchat and Rivet, 1907 (also see Rivet and Beuchat, 
1910); Buchwald, 1908, 1918, 1924; Cabello Balboa, MS. (see Jijon y Caamaiio, 
1940-45, vol. 2) ; Cieza de Leon, 1932; Heimann, 1931-32; Jijon y Caamano, 1912, 
1919, 1940-45, vol. 2; Karsten, 1924; Rivet, 1905 (also see Beuchat and Rivet, 1907; 
Verneau and Rivet, 1912-22) ; Rivet and Beuchat, 1910; Seler, 1885, 1902; Stevenson, 
1825; Verneau and Rivet, 1912-22; Von Hagen, 1939 ; Wiener, 1882; Wilczynski, 1888. 


By Wm. Duncan Strong and Frederick Johnson 

In evaluating the present status of anthropological knowledge concern- 
ing Central America it is impossible not to repeat the fact that the present 
corpus of material is utterly uneven and inadequate.^ This deplorable and, 
in considerable part, unnecessary condition cannot be overemphasized. 
There is little advantage to be gained in lamenting the large amount of 
cultural materials in the area that have been lost forever through the 
ravages of time, looting, and indifference in recording. It is of more value 
to point out that there still remains in the region a great amount of such 
materials that can be revealed and integrated whenever Central American 
anthropology is made the subject of coordinated and persistent research. 
Since the region is not only scientifically important in its own right, but 
also holds the key to much of our potential understanding of adjacent 
cultures of both North and South America, it is desirable that the reasons 
for the present sorry state of anthropological knowledge in Central Amer- 
ica be analyzed and the condition remedied so far and so soon as may be 

A review of the foregoing articles will show that one of the greatest 
obstacles to integration in regard to any study of native Central American 
civilization is the extreme unevenness of the anthropological and historical 
data. If, as is the case in only a very few instances, an adequate archeo- 
logical sequence has been established, it is usually found that the historic, 
ethnological, and linguistic materials^ available at present are confused 
and inadequate. Where history is most specific, or ethnology fairly 
adequate, it will often be found that the only available prehistoric data 
consist of speculations based on selected art objects dug up by looters and 
collectors. Finally, any attempt to correlate the products of men's hands 
and minds with the human beings who created them, whether in prehistoric 
or historic times, meets with complete failure at the start, for practically 
no anthropometric material on either the living or the dead is now avail- 
able. It can fairly be asked, therefore, whether this sad state of affairs 

1 For other analyses, see Kroeber, 1939, p. 109, and Strong, 1940, pp. 377-385. 
' The deplorable and misleading condition of historical linguistic studies in Central America has 
been stressed elsewhere; see Strong, op. cit., and Kroeber, 1940, pp. 463-470. 



is entirely due to the impossibility of gathering such data because of its 
nonexistence or destruction, or whether the scientist may not be equally 
to blame for not securing much that is still available while there is time. 

In regard to the historic approach to Central American problems it 
seems highly probable that much archive material is extant which has 
not yet been utilized. It is significant that every new archeological 
advance, as at Code, has drawn forth considerable amounts of historical 
data previously unknown or unappreciated. This lack of knowledge or 
appreciation of obscure but available historical documents particularly 
marks most modern North American investigators who, with a few 
shining exceptions, are not very familiar with such materials. Since the 
ordinary field archeologist or ethnologist can hardly be expected to be 
also a competent archival historian, this points up another issue. That 
is the fact that there is a great need for up-to-date compilations and 
revisions of such historic materials. Those available for Central America 
go back several generations to Squier, Bancroft, Brinton, and others, and 
even these are too little used by modern field men. Lothrop's brief sum- 
mary (1926 b) of the ethnography of Costa Rica and Nicaragua at the 
time of the Conquest and Beals' similar ethnography of northern Mexico 
(1932), based largely on the sources used by Bancroft in his somewhat 
hit-or-miss compilations, are shining exceptions. Beals' work is invalu- 
able on the ethnographic level and, as archeology commences in that 
region, will be equally important in that regard. It is essential, not only 
for anthropology but also for history and the social sciences in Central 
America, that the continuity of the human record in this area be presented 
in the most complete form possible. Here the work of anthropologist, 
historian, and sociologist blends and each is dependent on the other. It 
would appear that no such unity of effort has yet been achieved. 

In regard to ethnology, this lack is well illustrated by the fact that in 
the previous articles information from the 16th and early 17th centuries, 
the period of first contact, has barely been touched upon except in the 
area lying between the Panama Canal and southern Nicaragua. Most 
of the information on the extremely important Meso-American tribes was 
brought to light by Squier, with some additions by Lothrop. Additional 
searches will undoubtedly reveal additional information. Modern studies 
are very few and often out of date and incomplete. We are forced still 
to rely on Gabb (1875), Pinart (1885), et al. for southeastern Costa 
Rica, and on Conzemius (1932, etc.) for the Mosquito and Sumo. The 
descriptions of various tribes in Nicaragua and Honduras are, perforce, 
based on Squier's researches (1858, etc.). Additions to such data may 
be found in a number of other descriptions, all of which are incomplete 
and sometimes not to be trusted. The principal problem of the moment 
is to obtain sound information concerning both the ancient and modern 
inhabitants of the region. Before satisfactory interpretations for any 


anthropological purpose can be made, experienced investigators must be 
sent into the region and given the opportunity to work out the details 
which we must have. 

One of the most perplexing of the ethnographic problems is the full 
understanding of modern Indian culture and also the presumably in- 
digenous culture traits which are found in the modern, outwardly Span- 
ish, civilizations. Early European descriptions provide glimpses of highly 
organized indigenous civilizations. In some cases, such as in Panama and 
Costa Rica, it is possible to block out several important phases of the 
evolution of present-day culture. Similarly, certain features of the 
Hispanization of the Meso-American tribes and, to a lesser extent, some 
of the peoples in the interior of Honduras and Nicaragua are known. For 
example. Stone's discussion of the Lenca (p. 61) emphasizes the inter- 
mediate position which this large and important group has occupied for 
a lengthy period. These people were in direct contact with the highly 
developed Maya civilization and with the curious combination of advanced 
and "primitive" cultures which appears to be characteristic of peoples to 
the south. The history of the tribes in the Caribbean Lowland can hardly 
be written. In this region the impact of European cultures has apparently 
had the most unfortunate results, for here there are indications of some- 
times extreme degeneration. Even so, it is certain that they have not 
always been such ; in fact, it is possible that civilizations of a high order, 
well adapted to life in the Tropical Forest, once existed. Adequate arche- 
ology is essential here as elsewhere. 

The significance of the foregoing remarks ranges over a wide field. 
From a purely anthropological point of view there is interest in culture 
history and in purely theoretical studies of culture development under 
conditions which prevailed. In addition, such anthropological data are 
essential to the solution of modern political, social, economic, and geo- 
graphic problems. The expansion of transportation facilities, the im- 
provement of communication, and the development of natural resources 
have brought or very soon will bring the modern world into intimate 
contact with even the most conservative and isolated groups of Central 
American Indians. The effect of this upon these people and other less 
conservative groups will be most profound. Anthropological studies 
which provide not only analyses of present conditions but of the events 
which led up to these are essential. Surveys of the incomplete data 
suggest, for example, that the background and point of view of people 
whose culture is rooted in South America is vastly different from those 
of Meso-American tradition. Further, the different environments of 
various sections of Central America condition the human existence in 
various ways. It is essential to understand the relationship between dif- 
ferent kinds of aboriginal culture as well as the modern cultures descended 
from them and the several environments. 


A final note is concerned with the European background. The Spanish, 
EngHsh, and other nations which imposed their culture upon aboriginal 
Central America utilized various approaches. In addition, these ap- 
proaches varied through the years. In tracing the evolution of culture 
from the time of the Conquest to the present, the character of the relation- 
ship between the European and the aborigine is of great significance. 
There are no Indian groups in existence, so far as known, that have not 
experienced the consequences of the impact of European culture. The 
social organization has been modified, religious concepts have changed, 
and many features connected with technology and economics have been 
adapted to the changing conditions. The character of this change and 
its effect upon ideas of people differed with the particular history of each 
region. Knowledge of this is fundamental to an understanding of the 
present-day culture, be it in an isolated Indian village or in the largest 
of the Central American cities. 


Beals, 1932; Conzemius, 1932, etc.; Gabb, 1875; Kroeber, 1939, 1940; Lothrop, 
1926 b ; Pinart, 1885 ; Squier, 1858, etc. ; Strong, 1940. 

Part 2. The Cultures of Northwest South America 


By Gregorio Hernandez de Alba 


The Sub-Andean cultural area extends from the eastern slopes of the 
Cordillera Occidental (long. 2° 40' west of the Bogota meridian) to the 
western slopes of the Cordillera Central (long. 1° west of the Bogota 
meridian) and from the region of Cali in the south (lat. 3°20' N.) to the 
Sierra de Abibe and the headwaters of the Sinii and San Jorge Rivers in 
the north (about lat. 7°20' N.). The Cauca River, earlier called the Rio 
Grande de Santa Marta, crosses this zone. It emerges from the deep 
broad valley in the region of Armenia and flows northward alternately 
through deep canyons and narrow valleys, with a multitude of tributary 
rivers descending from Cordilleras enclosing this zone. In addition to the 
Cauca and its tributaries, this territory, with its narrow valleys and steep 
slopes, is drained by the Nechi River and its afifluent, the Force, which 
flow toward the northeast, the Rio Sucio running northwest, the Murri, 
which joins the Atrato River in the west, and the Samana and Nare Rivers, 
both tributaries of the Magdalena River to the east. 

An exception must be made of the region which today is embraced by 
the Department of Valle del Cauca and the Departments of Caldas and 
Antioquia, which complete this zone. This region is predominantly moun- 
tainous with small mesas, terraces, hills, peaks, slopes, and depressions 
which so complicate the topography that an author of the ancient State of 
Antioquia stated, "The mountains form an almost indefinable ensemble, 
the description of which, even with a compass in hand, would require much 
time and study to be done satisfactorily" (Uribe Angel, 1885). From the 
perpetual snows on the summits of peaks, such as Ruiz in the Cordillera 
Central (5,590 m., 18,339.9 feet), to the hot climates, there is every grad- 
ation of temperature from 5° to 6° C. (41° to 43° F.) on the Mesa de 
Herveo at 3,170 m. (10,400.2 feet) above sea level, to 27° C. (80.60° F.) 
in the low valleys, as at Zaragoza, 205 m. (672.57 feet) altitude. The 
altitude and mean temperature of the territories occupied by the peoples 
mentioned subsequently vary from south to north as follows: Cali, 1,046 
m. (3.431.78 feet) and 22° C (71.60° F.) ; Buga, 1,001 m. (3,284.08 feet) 



and 24" C. (75.20° F.) ; Cartago, 979 m. (3,211.93 feet) and 2V C 
(75.20° F.) ; Anserma, 1,790 m. (5,872.7 feet) and 17° C. (62.60° F.) ; 
Nueva Caramanta, 2,107 m. (6,932.67 feet) and 17° C. (62.60° F.) ; 
Arma, 2,210 m. (6,922.6 feet) and 18° C (64.40° F.) ; Concordia, 1,900 
m. (6,233.6 feet) and 19° C. (66.20° F.) ; Ebejico, 720 m. (2,362.2 feet) 
and 23° C. (73.40° F.) ; Antioquia, 572 m. (1,876.66 feet) and 27° C 
(80.60° F.) ; Buritica, 1,650 m. (5,413.4 feet) and 20° C. (68° F.) ; 
Canasgordas, 1,490 m. (4,888.4 feet) and 20° C. (68° F.) ; and Ituango, 
1,530 m. (5,019.7 feet) and 21° C. (69.80° F.).^ 

Typical of the Tropics, the natural flora and fauna vary with altitude and 
climate. The presence, absence, and nature of many cultural features, such 
as dress, habitations, sources of food, and food preparation, are conditioned 
by the natural environment. A general Sub-Andean culture, however, 
predominates ; it is adapted to a region with a temperate climate (mean 
temperature of 18° C. or 64.40° F.), a broken terrain, considerable rain- 
fall, and forests. The altitudinal variations in natural resources of flora 
and fauna have been outlined previously by the author (Handbook, vol. 2, 
pp. 916-918). Foods obtained through farming, gathering, and hunting 
will be mentioned subsequently. 

At the beginning of the 16th century a large number of peoples inhabited 
this region. According to the incomplete and biased accounts which the 
first chroniclers wrote of their contacts and wars with the Spaniards, they 
were similar to one another in some respects and different in others, and 
they constituted a mosaic of different nations and even of different lan- 
guages. Uribe Angel (1885, pt. 3, ch. 2), who first undertook to classify 
the more than 50 nations of native peoples listed by the chroniclers as in- 
habitants of the present Departments of Antioquia and Caldas, reduced 
them to three main groups : Catio, Nutahe, and Tahami. These are not 
necessarily cultural divisions. Jijon y Caamano (1936-38), using Rob- 
ledo's information, describes the peoples of Nori, Caramanta, and Cartama 
as having a uniform language and dress, and classes the language of the 
Carrapa and Picara with Quimbaya. Following Cieza de Leon (1932, 
pt. 1), who states that the Pozo and Arma had the same language, Jijon y 
Caamaiio gives the following linguistic groupings: Urabd and Catio 
(Choc 6 family) ; Arma and Pozo; Quimbaya, Carrapa, Picara, and Pau- 
cura; Chance and ChocS of the Pacific Coast. He groups as culturally 
similar the Nutave, Tahami, Cenufana, Murgia, Ancerma, Gorron, and 
Buga. The Caramanta understood the language of the Encerma, which 
was different from the languages of the other provinces. The Lile Yolo, 
Jamundi, Timba, etc., belonged, with Cuna and Barbae oa, to a group of 
Chibchan languages (Jijon y Caamano, 1936-38, vol. 2, app. pp. *111- 
*112, *184, *189). Rivet 1943, pp. 55-87), using a hnguistic argument 

^The geographical data are from Uribe Angel (1885), Arenas Paz (1922), and Hermano Justo 


but taking into account the extension in the Cauca region of the custom of 
deforming the arms and legs with ligaments, sees four groups in the Cauca 
Valley that belong to the Choco language, which he classes in the Carib 
family. From these he excludes the Lile, Gorron, and Chanco of the broad 
valley and the Dabeiha and Catio of the mountains to the north. 

In the present article we shall use the few available cultural data in an 
attempt to ascertain the tribes and subtribes which have the culture ele- 
ments characteristic of the Sub-Andean area. This must be considered 
merely as a preliminary and tentative essay, as it was prepared in a very 
few weeks at the request of the editor of the Handbook and is intended 
only to sketch briefly the salient traits of certain tribes which it had previ- 
ously been impossible to cover in the Handbook. 


After 1501, when Rodrigo de Bastidas discovered the coast of Cartagena 
and Alonso de Ojeda arrived at the Gulf of Uraba, the conquistadors at- 
tempted repeatedly to penetrate to "tierra adentro." They were lured by 
the discovery of mines whence had come the quantities of gold which they 
found worn as ornaments by the living Indians of Darien or Cenii, whom 
they killed for their riches, or which was obtained from the graves of dead 
Indians. But instead of the coveted gold these expeditions found mainly 
hardship, caused sometimes by poisoned arrows but more often, as in the 
case of the expedition of Pedro de Heredia in 1534, brought on by the 
cold and impenetrable country they had reached above Zaragoza and 
Remedios in the Department of Antioquia. The greed for gold out- 
weighed the death of soldiers, however, and Alonso de Heredia repeated 
the attempt in 1535, reaching Ayapel, near the Cauca. In 1536, the con- 
quistador Don Pedro went up the Darien River to seek his fortune. The 
next year Francisco Cesar left San Sebastian de Uraba with a large com- 
pany and, passing through the difficult hills of Abibe, reached the Cauca 
Valley, where he fought the cacique Nutibara and returned defeated. 
Simultaneously with these attempts to penetrate the country from north 
to south, Spanish incursions were made from south to north. They started 
in 1535 from Quito under the commands of Sebastian de Belalcazar, 
Pedro de Afiasco, and Captain Juan de Ampudia. Anasco and Ampudia 
passed through Popayan, crossed the Jamundi River, and arrived in 
Gorron territory, where they founded Villa de Ampudia. They went on 
through the region of the Lile, where they met Belalcazar early in 1536. 
Call was founded in Lile territory in 1537 by Captain Miguel Munoz, 
after which Villa de Ampudia was gradually abandoned. 

Thus from the beginning the coast and interior competed in the dis- 
covery of the lands between the Atlantic and Peru, and both accomplished 
it. These expeditions are the main source of information on the tribes 
they found between the Magdalena, Cauca, and Atrato Rivers. They 


founded the first cities so as to exploit the land and the gold sands, they 
initiated the extinction of the Indian and the importation of African slaves, 
which resulted in the extension of the Negro population, and they laid 
the foundation for the riches of the present Departments of Caldas and 
Antioquia. From antiquity the chroniclers of the Conquest couched the 
details as in the following from Castellanos (1847) : 

In canyons, rivers, waterholes 

And wherever one seeks, 

Is manifest sources of gold 

To delight the avaricious breast, 

And the diligence of the miners 

Finds the washing-trough well filled.* 

The principal object of the settlements in the territory of Antioquia 
was the exploitation of mines. The most important of the cities of the 
Conquest was "Real de Minas de Santa Fe" or Santa Fe de Antioquia, 
which was described by Cieza de Leon (1932) as follows: "There are 
very rich mines near this city in the Rio Grande de Santa Marta which 
flows near it. In summer, the Negroes and Indians take vast riches from 
its beaches." This remark reveals that from the beginning of colonization 
the Spaniards established Negro slaves in the mines, for already the 
Indians had been largely exterminated and the few remnants had migrated 
to the wilderness of the mountains to escape subjugation through the 
encomienda and the "mita," which had forced them to work in mines far 
from their tribal lands. Vicente Restrepo (1937) has written an im- 
portant study on the historic role of mining in this territory. 

Another industry, and one which greatly endangers archeology, is the 
search for graves rich in gold ornaments. This originated in Conquest 
times, when the Spaniards forced the Indians to reveal the graves of their 
chiefs. "They energetically put all hands to work at disinterring the 
dead, opening the sepulchres . . . They found them so rich that they took 
out thirty thousand pesos, twenty thousand, twelve thousand, six 
thousand, and down to fifty, the least find" (Simon, 1882-92, pt. 3, Pri- 
mera Noticia, ch. 21). This industry, which continues in vogue among 
the people of Antioquia and is called "guaqueria," removes pieces of gold 
from the ancient sepulchers without regard for the less precious objects, 
the skeletal material, or data essential to archeological investigations. 

In the present Department of Valle del Cauca, which was so densely 
populated at the Conquest that Castellanos said that "in more than 30 
leagues of road there is someone every step of the way" (in Acosta, 1901, 

' Porque quebradas, rfos, vertederos 
y cualquiera lugar que se catea, 
manifiestan aurfferos veneres, 
con que el avaro pecho se recrea, 
y la solicitud de los mineros 
saca bien provedia la batea. 


ch. 9, p. 114), the native population disappeared culturally, and the few 
survivors of the cruel Spanish epic are mixed with European or African 
blood, giving rise to the Mestizo and the mulatto or zambo, which forms 
the mass of the population of the Department. In Caldas and Antioquia, 
as well as in the neighboring territory of the Choco to the west, a few 
groups of natives more or less pure in race and culture, or else much 
acculturated, have succeeded in surviving the persecution and despoliation. 
But it must be noted that before the arrival of the Whites, wars and 
cannibalism had annihiliated some peoples, of which Tulio Ospina cites 
an example : "The meseta oriental, Rionegro, Concepcion, etc., had been 
depopulated by attacks of the cannibal Nutabes." Robledo states: "On 
through the sierra there are many depopulated towns, wide roads, and 
ditches made by hand, and seats of great populations all already de- 
stroyed." Robledo continued to the pueblo of Tami, "And here the 
chief came out peacefully. From him, the Captain endeavored to obtain 
information about the land and about those ancient structures which 
he had been finding in the Province of Aburra. The former replied that 
once there had been a great population and that the people of the 
Provinces of Nutabe and Urezo, where the Senor was, had destroyed 
those very ancient things." (Ospina, 1905, pp. 145-164.) 

An example of the depopulation in post-Conquest times is the following 
note: "The native population of more than 600,000 souls, the equivalent 
of 120,000 Indian laborers (fighters and miners), in the middle of the 
16th century, were entrusted to the cruel encomenderos. Fifty years 
later there remained only 1,500" (Ospina, 1918, pp. 413-414, from the 
Relacion of the visit of the Oidor Herrera Campuzano in 1616). The 
census of the same territory for 1778 gives 49,445 inhabitants for all 
the Province of Antioquia, of which 10 percent were slaves, according 
to Ospina's investigations. In 1581 there were the following settlements: 
Arma, Caramanta, Antioquia la Vieja, Santa Fe de Antioquia, San Juan 
de Rodas, Valdivia, Caceres, San Jeronimo del Monte, Zaragoza, and 
Remedios (Uribe Angel, 1885, p. 761). In the middle of the 19th cen- 
tury the few Indians of the territory were located in Caramanta, Murri, 
Chontaduro, Juntas, Musinga, Urama Grande, Uramita, Pital, Rioverde, 
and Monos, the greater part toward the northwest and in the Districts of 
Urrao, Frontino, and Cafiasgordas (Uribe Angel, 1885, p. 520). Later 
the penetration of Whites and Mestizos had dislocated the Indian element 
farther toward the jungles of the Choco and the Atrato Rivers, or up 
toward the Sinu River and its tributaries (Laura de Santa Catalina, 1936, 
p. 136). The territory today occupied by the Department of Caldas first 
had typical Spanish pueblos or municipios at Santa Ana de los Caballeros 
de Anserma (1539), Cartago (1540), and Victoria (1553). According 
to Lopez de Velasco (1916), Santa Ana de Anzerma had 30 Indian 
villages with 5,000 tributaries and more than 1,000 Negroes to mine the 

653334 — 48 21 


gold. Anna had 27 Indian villages with 17,000 tributaries. The Indians 
became fewer daily. Today, Garcia (1937, pp. 228-236) gives a total of 
10,294 Indians in the census of 1918, 2.4 percent of the total population, 
these Indians being in the Municipios of Riosucio, Quinchia, Guatica, 
Mistrato, and Pueblorrico. He writes, "The native family sows secret 
places between the bushes, gives his share of work on the farms, and 
lives in permanent migration. Lacking money, he pays with his work. 
But his nomadism at least prevents his debts becoming hereditary. Not 
mixing with other ethnic elements, he preserves his customs and language. 
Hunting and fishing entice him to the valleys of the Suarraga, Taiba, 
Amurrupa, Guarato, San Juan and Chami Rivers." 

Of the many native gold ornaments taken by guaqueros, or treasure 
hunters, some pieces from this territory have been preserved intact in 
museums, such as the London Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the Amer- 
ican Museum of Natural History in New York, the Museum of the 
American Indian, Heye Foundation, New York, the University Museum 
in Philadelphia, and, in Colombia, in the Museo Arqueologico Nacional. 
Today, the Museo de Oro del Banco de la Republica de Colombia is as- 
sembling private collections, especially from Medellin and Manizales, and 
now has a collection which for both size and importance is unequaled, 
surpassing the so-called "treasure of the Quimbayas" in the Museo de 
Madrid in Spain. 

The only scientific archeological research carried out in this region is 
that done in Gorron territory west of Buga by Henry Wassen in 1935, 
by the author in 1937, and in Valle del Cauca by Wendell C. Bennett 
and James A. Ford for the Institute of Andean Research in 1941-42. 
Luis Duque Gomez worked in the Department of Caldas, especially at 
Zupia, in 1942. For a long time the name Quimbaya has been used gen- 
erally to designate the civilization which produced the greater part of the 
goldwork and ceramics taken from graves in Antioquia, Caldas, and the 
region of Quindio. Various authors have studied Quimbaya archeology, 
the most outstanding being Restrepo Tirado (1929) and Posada Arango 
(1875). (See also Handbook, vol. 2, pp. 838-841.) 

The archeology of this zone presents many problems. There is need 
to establish typology, distributions, and cultural sequences and to identify 
the Sub-Andean cultures archeologically so as to verify or modify the 
very inadequate ethnological picture, which has been reconstructed from 
fragmentary data in old chronicles or gleaned from strongly acculturated 
modern peoples. 



The Jamundi (Xamundi) lived on the Xamundi River, which enters 
the Cauca below Popayan, and in the territory toward the Cordillera 


Occidental. They adjoined the Aguale, who are not precisely located by 
the historians but who Cieza affirmed had the same customs as their 
neighbors, i.e., the Lile. North of these tribes, toward the Mar del Sur, 
lived the Timha, who spoke the same language as the people of Valle Lile 
and "the small valleys of the Cordillera Occidental" (Jijon y Caamano. 
1936-38, vol. 2, app. p. *185 ; Cieza de Leon, 1932, ch. 28, p. 94) . Closer to 
the valley lived the Atunceta, adjoining the Lile. The latter were occupants 
of the Valley of Lile or Lili to the west of Cali (which took its name and 
corrupted it) and of surrounding territory extending northward to the 
Gorron and eastward to the Gnambia and Buga. The Gorron lived on 
the slopes of the Cordillera toward the valley, north of Lile. Their 
territory extended through the mountains to adjoin the Barbacoa; to the 
northeast it reached to the Chanco, who separated them from the Ancerma; 
and to the east it was bounded by the Cauca River, which divided them 
from the Buga. 

Linguistic studies are very deficient, being based on a very few words 
transmitted through a foreign tongue, Spanish. Because of cultural 
similarities, the Gorron are placed with the Buga, Chanco, and Ancerma, 
and the Lile, Timha, and Jamundi are put in the Chibchan family (Rivet, 
1943 ; Jijon y Caamano, 1936-38, vol. 2, app. p. *189) . According to this, 
the Gorron and Chanco spoke the same language as the Chocd. 


These tribes practiced farming, which was greatly favored by the local 
environment. The Lile had plantations of maize and manioc, and many 
fruit trees, including bananas, guayavas, guamas, granadillas, zapotes, 
papayas, starapples (caimitos), vocados, and guanabanas (Guillen Chap- 
arro, 1889), as well as palms, called "pixivaes" by the chroniclers, which 
were very useful for both food and drink. The extensive use of fruits 
is shown by the way in which the Indians around Cali, especially the 
women, brought them by the basketful to the expeditionaries of Ampudia. 

The Gorron cultivated much maize and, like the Lile, hunted deer, 
guadaquinajes, and birds native to the region. But they were outstanding 
as fishermen, and they received their name from the cry by which they 
announced to their new customers, the Spaniards, that they had fish to 
sell. They lived in the mountains but came down to the banks of the 
Cauca to fish and at the same time to cultivate small parcels of land. Their 
fisheries were in front of Buga, where they constructed a special pond 
which yielded quantities of fish each summer when it became dry. 

Concerning food preparation we know only that the Lile roasted or 
boiled maize (Pascual de Andagoya, in Jijon y Caamano, 1936-1938, 2: 
55) and that the Gorron smoked their fish, having no salt in which to pre- 
serve it (Cieza de Leon, 1932, ch. 26, pp. 79-81). 



Lile houses were large, high, circular in ground plan, walled with thick, 
erect poles, and covered with broad grass. The dwelling of a chief, 
according to Cieza, had a door in the center and four tall windows ; inside, 
running across it, were benches on which were trophy corpses of slain 
enemies. The villages were "large and beautiful," with the houses placed 
near one another. 

The tribes living in the Cordillera, toward Buenaventura, made smaller 
houses, covered with palm leaves and enclosed with thick poles. One 
author, however, claims that the Lile had palisades or forts in the sierra, 
where they remained part of the year, and temporary houses for fishing 
in the plains. Gorron houses were like those just described, and the vil- 
lages were large, the houses being in groups of 10 or 15, tables always 
in the sierras. Inside the house there was always a storage place for 
dried fish. 

Among household objects must be mentioned tables (the trophy corpses 
were seated on tables), stone metates for grinding maize, and, in dwell- 
ings of principal men, gold plates. 

The only noteworthy engineering work is the artificial lake which the 
Gorron constructed to raise fish (Sardilla, 1891-94, vol. 2, p. 392). 


The Lile wore a small apron in front and another hanging behind, 
those of the women being of cotton and hung from a belt. The Gorron 
wore cotton clothes, of very beautiful appearance. Men wore "maures," 
01 breechclouts, and women heavy blankets 3 varas long and 2 wide (a 
vara is 80 cm. or about 32 inches). The Chanco dressed only in "maures" 
made of "crushed" tree bark, probably bark cloth, but not of woven 
cotton. These were 1 vara long and 2 palms wide. 

The neighbors of the Lile gathered up the hair and adorned it with 
fillets of gold and with bone or shell beads (chaquiras). They wore 
crescentic gold nose ornaments, or "caricuries." Ear ornaments made of 
rings of twisted gold, fine necklaces with gold figures, and "long strands 
of small white and colored bone beads which they call 'chaquira'." 
Chaquiras were an item of women's adornment. The Gorron used the . 
same kinds of jewels and ornaments. 


As the Cauca River in the country of the Lile and Gorron is broad and 
tranquil, these Indians were able to travel on water by canoes, some of 
which Cieza noted 5 leagues from Xamundi. They also used the curious 
method of straddling a bamboo trunk, carrying their loads of objects and 
provisions in a basket on their heads, and even spinning while crossing 


the river, as observed near Cali. The Lile, or closely related groups living 
in the sierra toward Buenaventura, were employed by the conquistadors 
and colonists to carry cargo and passengers on their shoulders between 
Cali and this port on the Pacific. To transport the Spaniards, they used 
chairs made of branches, probably Utters. So difficult was this trip for 
the Indians that, according to Cieza, "when they arrive near the city of 
Cali, where they entered the plains, they were footsore and walked with 
great pain, which profited them nothing," for "all they gained and all 
the encomenderos gave these miserable ones they had ciarried with them" 
(Cieza de Leon, 1932, ch. 29). 


Spinning and weaving. — The Chanco made breachclouts of bark cloth, 
but the Lile and Gorron practiced weaving. The women spun the thread, 
even while crossing a river with cargo on their heads. This custom of 
performing some task while going from one place to another persists 
among the modern rural peoples of Colombia, especially among women, 
who spin as they walk. 

Cotton was woven for blankets and "maures," or breechclouts. Some 
blankets were 3 varas (2.4 m., or 8 ft.) long and 2 varas (1.6 m., or 5 ft., 
4 in.) wide. 

All these tribes made cordage. To wrap funeral bundles the Gorron 
made three-ply cords more than 200 brazas (fathoms) long (Cieza de 
Leon, 1932, ch. 26). 

Ceramics. — Pottery is scarcely mentioned among these tribes, but it is 
known archeologically. There are characteristic types and features, such 
as the use of human figures and faces as adornos, and particularly the 
well-known "caricuri," which is in the form of a twisted nail with en- 
larged extremities (Bennett, 1944, and Ford, 1944). 

Metallurgy. — The Gorron and Lile as well as the other tribes of this 
area worked gold, either pure or alloyed with copper, the latter being 
called by the chroniclers, "low gold" ("oro bajo"). They made objects 
of personal adornment, described above, among them "caricuris," and the 
chiefs or principal men had gold plates among their household utensils. 

Stonework. — Historical sources mention polished stone knives and 
stone metates for grinding maize. In addition, archeology has revealed 
the use of stone axes and celts ( Wassen, 1936, pp. 30-67 ; Bennett, 1944, 
and Ford, 1944; Hernandez de Alba, 1938). 

Preparation of skins. — There is no mention of the preparation of 
hides, but the Lile and Gorron flayed the corpses of slain enemies and 
stuffed the skins with wood ashes, the potash of which preserved them 
for some time. 



Lile territory was divided into six "cacicados" or subtribes, each 
governed by its own chief (cacique), who had little power, as Cieza 
remarks "they counted for little with the Indians".^ There seems, how- 
ever, to have been some tribal organization or federation under a single 
head, for Petecuy was, at the time of the discovery, the most powerful 

There was an aristocratic class, the members of which received tribute 
from their subjects and were buried in a special grave. Inheritance, at 
least in this class, passed to the son of the principal wife, a fact which 
also indicates polygyny. 

Economic activities. — Chiefs received tribute from their subjects, a 
prerogative which passed to the son, perhaps the oldest, of the principal 
wife. The chiefs likewise contracted with the Colonial Spaniards to have 
goods transported from the coast to Cali, their subjects performing this 

The Gorron carried on more organized commerce, trading dried, 
smoked fish and oil extracted from these fish with the peoples of the 
Province of Cali. They stored surpluses of dried fish taken in summer 
from their special pond at Buga to eat or sell during the rainy season. 


Nothing is known of customs pertaining to childbirth, and initiation 
rites are not mentioned. 

Polygyny was practiced, at least by the chiefs. Chiefs always married 
their nieces, or, sometimes, their sisters, suggesting endogamy of a ruling 

A sexually inverted man was derisively called a "woman." 

The Lile treated sick people with baths and with herbs, the curative 
qualities of which they knew well. Chiefs were interred in their own 
houses, in large, deep graves; food, weapons, and gold ornaments were 
placed with the corpse. The Gorron adorned a deceased person with his 
precious ornaments, wrapped him in many cotton blankets, which were 
tied with bast cord, and buried him. 

In great wars with their neighbors, these tribes fought with darts, 
lances, and macanas, or thick wooden clubs, and defended themselves with 
painted wooden shields. 

They flayed their enemies, stuffed their skins with wood ashes, and 
modeled wax features on the skulls. They put weapons in their hands 
and exhibited them in their houses. Even detached hands and feet were 

' "Eran tenidos en poco de los indios.' 


kept as trophies. The Lile and Gorron made great use of such trophies 
to ornament their houses, and they even kept intestines stuffed with ashes. 
The place of honor was inside, over the door. 

CannibaUsm was also practiced, for after flaying the corpses they ate 
the flesh, a ritual that was carried out in a special house. In the village 
of Petecuy the Spaniards found a hut with a "great quantity" of pieces 
of corpses, heads, and bones. 

So developed was the spirit of warfare among these tribes that Gorron 
women went to war with their men, carrying arms, fighting, and taking 


Art forms are known only from specimens of ceramics and gold work. 
There is no record of music, musical instruments, or dance forms. 

A social game or contest was practiced by the Lile as an annual mourn- 
ing ceremony. Thirty to fifty persons from each of two villages would 
assemble, each group under the leadership of its chief. After eating and 
drinking in a common feast the groups would confront each other and 
fight by hurling darts, which they w^arded off with shields. Many would 
emerge wounded and some were killed, but this did not cause enmity be- 
tween the two villages (Pascual de Andagoya, in Jijon y Caamaiio, 1936- 
38, vol. 2, doc. 2) . A similar contest was held by the Pdes of the Cordillera 
Central (Hernandez de Alba, Handbook, vol. 2, p. 952). 

Cieza found no idols, temples, or special places of worship among these 
tribes. There were, however, priests or shamans, who communicated with 
the divinities, which the historians called "demons." The shamans prac- 
ticed divination, witchcraft, and magic, for purposes both of protection and 
of vengeance. 

Soon after the Conquest these Indians, who were treated as people who 
were "simple and without malice," became Catholics, adopted European 
shirts, and were wholly assimilated. 


The ethnology of the peoples who occupied the territory which, at the 
time of the Conquest, was called "between the three rivers" — the Mag- 
dalena, Cauca, and Atrato Rivers — will be treated in three divisions. The 
first includes the tribes of the right bank of the Cauca River, the Qiiimbaya, 
Carrapa, Picara, Paucura, Pozo, and Anna. The second division includes 
several tribes from the Anccnna to the Abibe, between the left bank of the 
Cauca River and Atrato River, which was formerly called the San Juan 
River and the Rio Grande del Darien. The third comprises the Abtirrd 
(Avurrd), Nutabe, Urezo, Tahami, and Yamici of the Province of Aburra. 


Almost without exception these tribes speak dialects of the Choco 
language (Jijon y Caamafio, 1936-38, vol. 2; Rivet, 1943). In 1551, 
Asensio (1921) made the same claim, without naming the language, when 
he stated, "They have their own language, although it is somewhat dif- 
ferent among the Indians of Cartago, Encerma, Arma, Charamanta, Sante 
Fe de Antioquia." 

We have assembled ethnographic data on 21 provinces, tribes, or groups 
of Indians who lived in this portion of the Sub- Andean area. There are 
many ethnological references for some tribes, but very few for those which 
were seldom visited by the conquistadors. Agriculture, hunting, simple 
huts, and ceramics were common to all these Indians. In all, 43 culture 
elements are mentioned in the sources: agriculture, hunting, fishing, 
domesticated animals, pile dwellings, communal houses, hammocks, roads, 
irrigation ditches, bridges, fences, woven blankets, bark-cloth garments, 
gold mining, goldworking, featherwork, body painting, basketry, marriage 
with consanguineous relatives, polygyny, slavery, intertribal trade, villages, 
isolated dwellings, desiccation of corpses, cremation, arrows, darts, lances, 
spears, macanas or clubs, slings, spear throwers, stone missiles, harpoons, 
boiling water and deadfalls or pitfalls used as weapons, war ^banners, 
stone knives, cannibalism, coca, human trophies, shamans, temples, and 

Of these elements, the Arma had 25, the Pozo 16, and the Picara and 
Paucura, 11. The Carrapa had 9 and the Quimbaya 16 plus 2 peculiar to 
themselves, cremation of corpses and the use of shields made of their own 
hair. The Ancerma had 25, the Toro 5, the Caramanta 13, the Buriticd 
and Antiochia 19, the Evegico 11, and the Catio 18. 

The most common elements were agriculture, hunting, woven blankets, 
goldwork, cannibalism, human trophies, body painting, arrows, lances, and 
macanas. The least common were fishing, pile dwellings, hammocks, bark- 
cloth garments, feather ornaments, corpses dried over a fire, cremation, 
shields, pitfalls used in warfare, and domesticated animals. On the basis 
of such limited material, the characteristics of the cultures are sketched 
in the following pages. 


The Quimbaya lived between the Cauca River to the west and the 
high peaks of the Cordillera to the east. According to Restrepo Tirado 
(1929), they were bounded on the north and south, respectively, by the 
Tacurumbi and Zegues Rivers, but Jijon y Caamano (1936-38, vol. 2) gives 
their boundaries as the Chinchina and Paila Rivers. On the north they 
adjoined the Carrapa and the Pozo, the latter being nearer the Cauca River. 
North of the Carrapa lived the Arbi and Picara; the latter dwelt west of 
the former and were eastern neighbors of the Pozo. The Pozo extended 


west of the Cauca River, east to the territory of the Pic or a and Carrapa, 
and north to that of the Paucura. The Paucura lived in the Pacora River 
Basin, south of the Arma. The Arma were located "from the cordillera 
which separates the Pueblanco and Piedra Rivers, both tributaries of the 
Arma, to the basin of the Pacora River, from the cordillera central" (Jijon 
y Caamafio, 1936-38, vol. 2). The Cenufana (Genu jama, Cenufara) lived 
to the north of the Arma, 


All these tribes were good cultivators of maize, sweet manioc, and beans 
{Phaseolus vulgaris). They grew various fruits, especially palms called 
"pixivaes" or "pijivaes," and pitahayas and paltas, but they also collected 
wild fruits. They raised cotton (Gossypium arboreum) and coca (es- 
pecially the Arma and Quimbaya). 

The animals most commonly hunted were rabbits {Sylvilagus fulves- 
cens), deer (Odocoileus virginianus columbicus), and guadaquinajes. 
The sources do not mention fishing, but it must have been practiced, 
especially by the peoples along the Cauca and other large rivers. 


Quimbaya, Picara, Paucura, and Poso houses were rectangular (Rob- 
ledo, in Jijon y Caamafio, 1936-38, vol. 2). Cieza describes Quimbaya 
houses as small ones, made of cane. The P020 houses were large and 
round, with a circular ground plan. They were protected by palisades of 
thick canes and had elevated, mat-covered platforms which served as watch- 
towers and were also dedicated to human sacrifice. 

Arma houses were large, with a circular plan, and the frame consisted 
of large poles arched across from the sides. They were covered with 
thatch, and the interiors were divided into compartments by means of 
mats, providing accommodations for many occupants. The houses were 
fortified with palisades, or rows of verticle bamboo trunks, forming 
streets. In the center of each village was a platform or gallery provided 
with stairs. It was dedicated to sacrifices. The habitations of the Picara 
and Paucura had enclosures fenced with thick canes on which were kept 
trophy skulls. 

Of furniture, we know only that these tribes had mats, which served 
as house and wall covers, hammocks (Quimbaya), pottery vessels, and 
metates without legs, with two legs at one end so as to tilt them, or with 
three or four legs. Goldwork was represented by spoons, small jars, and 


All these tribes used woven cotton garments, but only as breechdouts 
(maures). The Anna, however, also made breechdouts of bark doth. 


The Qiiimbaya had head bands (monteras) of woven cotton, which fitted 
closely over the forehead with one or two quadrangular bands hanging 
down behind. The Anna, said Cieza, went to war "dressed or armed with 
gold from head to foot." 

Personal adornment in all the tribes included gold crowns, nose orna- 
ments, earrings, necklaces, and bracelets. The Quimbaya wore bands 
around the knees and anklets, both as ornaments and to constrict the legs. 
Common people cut their hair, but chiefs wore theirs long as evidence of 
status. Body hair was pulled out with special depilatory pincers of gold. 

The P020 and Anna, especially the chiefs, painted themselves, prefer- 
ably with yellow, blue, and black on the face, and anointed their bodies 
with an odorous resin over which they painted red, bixa. These tribes 
also perforated the lower lip with spines and wore gold labrets through 
the holes. The labrets hung down in such a manner that the Spaniards 
called them "beards" (Robledo, in Jijon y Caamafio, 1936-38, vol. 2). 
For warfare, the Indians wore a feather headdress (Cieza de Leon, 1932). 

The Quimbaya and perhaps the Pozo deformed their skulls. 


The Quimbaya made bridges of creepers. The Arnia constructed large 
roads which ran as far as the Province of Cenufana. 


Weaving and cloth. — The Anna made bark coth, and they and the 
other tribes produced finely woven cotton cloth. 

Basketry and pottery. — In addition to mats, frequently mentioned in 
the sources, these tribes made baskets for storing and transporting objects. 
Their pots included vessels for ordinary use, large receptacles for holding 
objects of gold, jars for boiling salt, and beautiful painted ware. The last 
are not mentioned by the conquistadors, but archeological material shows 
that they were finely polished and were painted with negative designs or 
with effigies. (See Handbook, vol. 2, p. 839.) 

Metallurgy. — A characteristic industry was goldworking. The metal 
was melted in crucibles, hammered, and beaten into sheets. It was mixed 
with dififerent proportions of copper, melted and cast, or else worked by 
repousse. Gold objects included spoons, knives, plates, and, in the words 
of the first Spaniards who saw these Indians, "flyingfish, eagles, guans, 
vampires, pincers, everything that is seen they had in jewels." (For 
illustrations of Quimbaya goldwork, see Handbook, vol. 2, pi. 170.) 

The Indians obtained the gold from placer sands or from mines, extract- 
ing it from the latter with a short sharp-pointed stick. 

Salt working. — The industry of extracting salt from saline water was 
perhaps expedited by the availability of metal for making evaporating 


vessels. The Quimbaya, instead o£ using pottery vessels, as was common 
among many Colombian tribes, such as the Chibcha and Pdes, used copper 
kettles. When the salt water began to thicken, "They removed it and 
mixed it with more salt water, and boiled it again until it began to crystal- 
lize into grains, not a lump, when they took it out and made it into a loaf 
and compressed it between cold ashes so that it came out very white" 
(Simon, 1882-92). 
The Arma extracted salt and traded it for gold. 


Polygyny was practiced, especially by the headmen. Among the Car- 
rapa, Picara, and Paucura, the chiefs married their sisters and nieces to 
perpetuate their aristocracy, though the Arma prohibited marriage with 
siblings. The Arma did not require that women be virgins at marriage. 

Inheritance was from father to son and, lacking a son, to the sister's 
son. Among the Carrapa, if the chief died without sons the principal wife 
inherited his authority and possessions, and when she died the chief's 
sister's son inherited them, as elsewhere. 

The Quimbaya consisted of a confederacy of six subtribes, governed 
respectively by the following chiefs: Tucurrumba, or Tacoronvi, Yanva, 
Zazaquavi, Via, and Pindana. The Carrapa chief was Irrua, who fought 
and vanquished the Quimbaya. Pimana was chief of the Picara. The 
Arma, from whom were derived the Pozo, accorded their chief special treat- 
ment, the people building his house, working his fields, giving him women, 
and providing him with gold as an offering and a tribute. 


A woman bore her child unaided in a hammock, as shown by a repre- 
sentation on a Quimbaya gold ornament. Afterward, she bathed in the 
river. No diet or confinement is reported. 

Until they were 12 years old children were under the complete care of 
the mother and aided her in her tasks. After this age the boys were under 
their father's care. 

Nothing is known of girls' or boys' puberty observances. 

Sick people were treated by shamans, or witches, or, among the Quim- 
baya, they were cured with baths in the river and with herbs. 

At the death of a chief the Quimbaya spent a night of vigil, weeping, 
drinking intoxicating chicha, and singing. The following day the body 
was burned and the ashes were placed in a gold receptacle, which was 
buried at great depth. In other cases, the deceased was clothed, provided 
with food and weapons, and buried with his slaves and wives, who were 
given a stupefying drink called "tonga" before being interred alive. The 
Carrapa and Pozo buried a dead man in a deep grave in his own house, 
accompanied by food, drink, his possessions, and some women. 



These tribes were extremely warlike, and Arma subtribes even fought 
among themselves. The main enemies of the Arma, however, were the 
Quimhaya, Putimd, Carrapa, and Pijao. The Picara fought the Pozo 
and Carrapa, and the Carrapa warred with the Picara and Quimhaya. The 
Poso engaged the Carrapa, Picara, and Paiicura. In these wars, as well as 
those against the White invaders, the Indians fought with darts, bows and 
arrows, spear throwers, slings, and flint knives. The knives were used to 
cut open and flay the dead for cannibalistic purposes. The Arma, Poso, and 
Carrapa carried banners of woven cotton decorated with stars and figures 
of gold. The Quimhaya carried shields made of their own hair, while 
the Arma used a kind of protective armor of gold. There is archeological 
evidence that the Quimhaya had helmets of gold, as illustrated in the col- 
lections of the British Museum in London. 

Cannibalism must have been a feature of most of the warfare, for the 
warriors often carried special ropes to tie up their prisoners and flint 
knives to quarter the dead. The Arma, Picara, and Paucura kept their 
prisoners in enclosures, where they were fattened until the tribe ate 
them. Cannibalistic ceremonies were accompanied by special festivities. 
Of the Arma, Lopez de Velasco states (1916, pp. 193-208), "Brother 
eats sister, husband eats wife, and father eats son ; they fatten prisoners 
and have festivities and dances when they consume the living, limb by 
limb," an opinion shared by Cieza (1932) and Robledo (in Jijon y 
Caamano, 1936-38, vol. 2). Although cannibalism of enemies cannot be 
doubted, it is wholly unlikely that endocannibalism was simultaneously 
practiced, and this statement illustrates the extravagant and indiscrimina- 
tive claims often made by the early chroniclers. 

These tribes displayed trophies of their sacrificial victims. The Picara. 
Paucura, and Poso placed trophy skulls on the tops of bamboo posts in 
front of their houses. The Poso also kept skulls and bones inside their 
houses and placed corpses on large poles to face the rising sun. 


Art. — The highest expression of art was unquestionably in goldwork. 
It was manifest in the selection of decorative motifs and particularly in 
the sculpture of the molds, or of the positives for making molds, which 
took the form of very perfect and realistic, though miniature, figures. 

Games. — The Quimhaya had a special contest in which a line of women 
and another of men and boys faced each other. They assaulted each other 
with weapons, such as spear throwers, shouting "batatabati," meaning 
"Look, we are playing!" This usually resulted in several people being 
wounded or even killed. (Cf. this with the Pdes contest. Handbook, vol. 
2, p. 952, and that of Lile, this volume, p. 307.) 


Dancing, singing, and musical instruments. — Singing and dancing 
were common, but the dances were not recorded, and only the songs used 
at a chief's death are described. These songs related to the chief's deeds 
and to his and his ancestors' exploits. 

Music accompanied attacks in warfare as well as peaceful songs 
and dances. Among instruments were membranophones, such as drums, 
and aerophones, such as cane flutes, pottery ocarinas, gold whistles, and 
trumpets. In the lower portions of the cane posts sustaining war trophies, 
the Picara and Paucura made holes in which the wind made a sound. 

Narcotic and intoxicating beverages. — These tribes cultivated coca 
and, therefore, must have used it as a narcotic. They made fermented 
chicha, which the Quimbaya and Carrapa served in gold cups. On 
solemn social or religious occasions, they became drunk on chicha. 


Some variation is evident in religion. The Quimbaya had a temple 
dedicated to the god named Nabsacadas. Here, they made offerings of 
bags of maize and of an unfermented maize drink (massato) to their gods, 
which the Spaniards as usual called "demons." Inside the temple was a 
painted stool placed over a mat decorated with colors, and there was an 
oflfering of 14 cotton blankets. War captives were dedicated to the divini- 
ties, and, according to Robledo, one was sacrificed each day. The Quim- 
baya believed in metempsychosis, or the transmigration of souls, and in 
resurrection after death. 

The Carrapa, who had no temples, worshiped the sun. They believed 
that their god could appear before them, and when sick they made offer- 
ings to him. The P020 made sacrifices to the gods before war expeditions. 
Their gods were represented by wooden idols, with human skulls, which 
had features modeled in wax. The idols were painted, decorated like 
chiefs, and kept in the houses. Every week the Picara and Paucura 
sacrificed two men to their gods. The sacrifices were made on platforms 
in the dwellings, and the victims were offered to the god. The Anna 
had mat-covered and well-ordered altars placed on high platforms in their 
dwellings. Here they made human sacrifices and burned fragrant incense 
in pottery censers before their idols. 


From south to north, between the left or western bank of the Cauca 
River and the Atrato River, were the following tribes: The Ancerma 
{Anzerma, Anserma), who were called Umbra by the local Indians, 
extended westward to the territory of the Cima in the Cordillera Occi- 
dental, eastward to the Cartatama on the Cauca River and beyond the river 


to Po30 territory, and northward to the Quinchia and Zopia. They were 
also bordered by the Tabuya and Guatica (Fernandez Piedrahita, 1881). 
Toward the Province of Choco were the Toro. The Quinchia and Zopia 
{Soppia, Supia) were bounded on the south by the Ancerma and the 
Cartatama and, across the Cauca River, by the Pozo. The Caramanta 
were the next tribe to the north and extended to Biiriticd country. On 
the south they must have adjoined the Ancerma, in part at least, for these 
tribes had formed an alhance. Their neighbors to the east were the 
Cartama. North of the Caramanta were the Burltica-Antiocha, who 
abutted the Pequi on the east and the Evejico on the west. The Nutibara, 
Nore, and Guaca were identified with them. The Evejico (Hevegico) 
occupied the province surrounded by the Penco, Pequi, Porruto, and 
Buriticd. The Catio, located by Castellanos (1852) between the Nechi 
and Porce Rivers, adjoining the Province of Darien, were probably situ- 
ated, as Uribe Angel (1885) has pointed out, "between the western bank 
of the Cauca, the course of the Atrato, the Atlantic coast, and the serrania 
de Abibe." 

The Guazusu, of the Province of Arriba, lived between the Abibe and 
Urabd, adjoining the Antiocha (Antioquia). The Abibe inhabited the 
mountains of that name, and extended north to the Genu, east to the 
Guazusu, and west to the Ghoco and Guna. 


All these tribes occupied mountainous, temperate regions. The early 
historians noted that the Ancerma were outstanding farmers. They 
mention that the following plants were cultivated: Cotton, maize, aji 
(Gapsicum annuum), coca, root crops such as sweet manioc, sweet- 
potatoes (Ipomoca batatas), a saffron called "rumi" in Antiochia, and 
kidney beans (Phaseolus vulgaris). Common fruits included guayavas, 
palm fruits which were eaten cooked, quinces, guamas (Inga spp.), sour- 
sop (Annona muricata), nisperos or medlar {Achras zapotilla), guabas, 
a palm called pixivaes or pijivaes from the palmito or heart of which 
they made a kind of bread and a drink, avocados (Persea americana), 
and pineapples {Ananas sativus). 

Animals hunted included the iguana, fresh-water turtle, deer {Odocoileus 
virginianus columbicus), peccary (puercos), otters (Lutra annectens), 
tapir {Tapirus roulinii) , ant bear (Tremarctos ornatus majori), oppossum 
(Galuromys philander) , rabbit (Sylvilagus fulvesc ens) , partridge (Golinus 
sp., or Odontophorus sp.), turkeys (Penelope), turtle doves (Golum- 
bidae), guans {Grax alcetor), and duck (Afias). 

The Indians cooked vegetables in many ways, and used both salt and 
pepper as condiments. They ate fruits, sometimes cooked, and, in 


Antiochia, according to Castellanos (1852), they prepared maize in 
various ways, including a thick gruel, now characteristic of the Depart- 
ments of Antioquia and Caldas, and tortillas. 


Houses were built of wood, and most of them were fortified with a 
stockade of thick poles or canes. Dwellings built on platforms or piles, 
which are characteristic of the Pacific coast, were also found here. In 
addition to pile dwellings, the Toro built houses in trees. Antiochia 
houses accommodated more than 200 persons and were reached by 
ladders. Catio houses had floors more than four estados (an estado is 
1.85 yards) above the ground, and they were enclosed by thick poles 
which reached to the thatched roof. There were loopholes for shooting 
arrows in case of attack, and heavy, loose pieces of wood that could be 
dropped down as deadfalls. To store water, the Catio made gutters of 
half-bamboos, which collected rain and conducted it into large wooden 
vessels or pottery jars. The Ancerma used floor mats and elevated, mat- 
covered beds. 

Special temples were built by the Ancerma, Caramanta, Nutibara, 
Nore, and Gnaca. Those of the Ancerma were built on hilltops, reached 
by bamboo stairs. The Ancerma and Caramanta had bamboo enclosures 
at the village entrances, where they kept trophy skulls. Among the 
Antiochia there was a large village, divided into wards (barrios). The 
Toro, however, lacked villages, their houses being dispersed. 


From Ancerma to Cali ran a native road. The Catio had roads leading 
up to their fortified houses ; these roads were protected with pitfalls. The 
Abibe built roads along the sides of their mountains, and they constructed 
bridges of vines that were anchored to trees and were floored with strong 
cross poles. 


Clothing was commonly made of woven cotton cloth. Ancerma men 
wore a breechclout (maure), which passed between the legs with the 
ends, front and back, hanging down over a band a palm wide made of 
thin shell beads (chaquiras) and gold. These breechclouts were adorned 
with paintings. Women wore painted blankets (mantas) hanging to 
their feet. Chiefs wore breechclouts and a large robe or blanket, called 
"nagua," which was decorated with paintings and circular and star- 
shaped ornaments in gold leaf. The robe hung from the shoulders to 
the feet and was constricted at the waist with a belt. Chiefs' wives wore 
similar blankets. Caramanta men wore a breechclout supported by a cord 


around the waist, and women wore a blanket covering them from the 
breast to the feet. Such garments were common to the other tribes, 
except the Catio, who had more luxurious dress, similar to that of the 
Ancerma, and the Toro, who wore bark-cloth garments, called "amaha- 
guas," similar to those of the Arma and Chanco. 

The hair was generally worn long, especially by chiefs among the 
Ancerma, Nutibara, Abibe, and Catio, but the last cut it short v/hen going 
to war. The Toro cut their hair short, plucking it out so as to form a 
crown, like that of the friars, hence their name, "Coronado." The An- 
cerma wore garlands and crowns of feathers, nose ornaments (cari- 
cories), four or five pairs of earrings, necklaces of beads (chaquiras) 
with gold figurines, especially in the form of frogs (chiefs' necklaces 
were entirely of gold), and ligatures made of strands of chaquiras below 
the knees. In addition, the chiefs wore their fingernails long and painted 
their faces in various designs and colors. The Buriticd and Catio also 
painted themselves and like the Evegico, wore gold ornaments. 


Among the Ancerma, Nutibara, and Abibe, chiefs were carried in 
hammocks or litters. Transportation of objects and merchandise was by 
human carrier over the mountainous country, but devices used are not 


Ceramics. — The only mention of pottery is food containers placed in 
graves and water vessels. Ceramics are known principally from objects 
taken from graves. 

Basketry and weaving. — Bark cloth is accredited to the Toro. Of 
basketry, the only mention is of matting, which was commonly used, 
especially by the Ancerma. Cordage was generally made and served for 
belts, hammock making, necklace strings, and the like. All tribes but the 
Toro wove cotton textiles, which they painted and made into clothing. 

Skin preparation. — There was no skin preparation, except in making 
trophies of slain enemies, whose bodies were flayed and the skins stuffed 
with ashes (see below). 

Metallurgy. — Metallurgy was as important as among the tribes east of 
the Cauca River, for the chroniclers speak of the abundance of gold. The 
chief of the Caramanta "took out what he wanted." The Buriticd mined 
gold with sharp sticks and smelted it with forges, furnaces, and crucibles. 
This industry was common to all the tribes, except the Guasuzu, who 
obtained their gold through trade. 


Polygyny is reported for the Ancerma, Caramanta, Guasuzu, Nore, 
and Guaca, Catio, and Nutibara. The Ancerma were also exogamous by 


village. An Ancerma man, especially a chief, had as many wives as he 
could support, taking each, regardless of vi^hether she were a virgin, 
without ceremony. The first to bear a son was considered the principal 
wife. These women came from other villages, and, when they were five 
months pregnant, they returned to their native village, presumably to 
remain until the child was born. Among the Catio, who were reported 
to have as many as 20 wives, a wife was purchased through the offices 
of a go-between. In matrimonial relations the man might make no ad- 
vances to his wife until she gave a special sign, but there was great fidelity. 
Adultery was severely punished, and a woman's husband and parents 
guarded her closely. The Zopia, on exceptional occasions, practiced some 
form of marriage with close relatives. 

Among the Ancerma, possessions and authority were inherited by the 
eldest son, or if he had died, by the next son. Lacking sons, the daughters 
inherited. Succession among the Zopia and Nutihara passed to the oldest 
son of the principal wife, and, in default of such a son, to the son of the 
man's oldest sister. The Catio present a curious case, if the sources are 
interpreted correctly, for the slave who had worked longest for his master 
inherited his master's goods, wives, and sons. 

Political authority was in the hands of chiefs, and in some cases there 
were several chiefs in one tribe, showing an organization into subtribes. 
Eight chiefs are mentioned for Ancerma territory: Ocusca, Humbruza, 
Fanfarrones, Guarma, Chatapa, Umbria, Riteron, and Ciricha. Cauroma 
was chief of the Caranianta, and Zuzaburruco ruled the Antiochia. Nuti- 
bara was the main chief of the Nutihara and Ahihe but governed the 
latter through his brother, Quinuchi, Nabonuco was chief of the Nore 
and Guaca, and Zuzabunuco of the Evegico. The Catio had several 
chiefs, but their subtribes had formed a confederation, especially for war- 
fare. Their main chief was Tone. Among the Guasusu a chief controlled 
about 10 houses, each house sheltering 8 to 10 families. 

Most of these chiefs, as among the Ancerma and Nutihara, enjoyed 
special privileges and etiquette. For example, they went forth carried 
in hammocks or litters, the latter decorated with plates and ornaments 
of gold. 

The Ancerma punished thiefs by making them slaves and eventually 
selling them to another tribe, presumably to compensate the robbed party 
with the price received. 

These tribes also kept prisoners of war as slaves. The Ancerma sold 
captives taken from the Caramanfa and Antiochia. Among the Nore and 
Guaca, slaves were married to tribal members so that their offspring might 
be sacrificed in cannibalistic feasts. The Catio made their slaves farm their 
lands or else ate them. The Guasuzu sold their slaves to the Antiochia, or 
kept them to perform labor, and buried some of them with a chief when 
he died. 

$53334-^8 22 



Gold and slaves were the main objects of native trade. Slaves were 
sold from tribe to tribe, especially by the peoples practicing cannibalism, 
and were given in exchange for gold or food. Gold objects were the 
main item of exchange among Ancerma, who traded with the Poso, or 
who carried on intratribal trade at periodic markets ("tianqiiaz"). 
The Antiochia traded mainly with the Nohava. With their gold the 
Buriticd purchased foods, while the Evegico bought "cerdos monteses" 
(peccaries?) and other things. The Guasuzu exchanged fine, painted, cot- 
ton cloth, which they manufactured, and slaves for gold objects, which 
they did not make. 


Observances at sacrifices, marriages, birth, initiation, and the like, 
though involving ceremonies and constituting the heart of the culture of 
each group, passed largely unnoticed by the chroniclers, who, however, 
frequently mention practices at death because of the gold interred with 
the deceased. 

These tribes were evidently very fertile, for Robledo observes that an 
Ancerma woman had a child each year. 

At the death of a chief the Ancerma placed the body on a platform or 
grill between two fires until the corpse had dried ; then they buried it 
either in a deep grave on the top of a hill or imder the floor of the house, 
accompanied by food, ornaments, weapons, and some of the man's wives. 
Caramanta burial was like that of the Ancerma, except that they put the 
body at the door of the house in a deep hole with an opening toward the 
east. The Nore and Giiaca wept many days for a chief and cut the 
hair of the wives and those who were closest to him. The deceased 
was placed in a mound, with a paved floor and an opening to the east, 
and was wrapped in blankets, adorned with ornaments, equipped with his 
weapons, and accompanied by women and servants, who were buried alive. 
The Catio and Guasuzu buried in the same manner. 


Two features are of special interest: the boiling water w'hich the 
Antiochia hurled at their enemy from their pile dwellings, and the pitfalls 
filled with sharp stakes which the Catio and Evegico concealed in trails. 
Otherwise, the common weapons were darts, bows and arrows, lances, 
spear throwers, slings, and macanas (clubs). 

The Nore and Guaca fought among themselves and against the Buriticd 
and made slaves of their prisoners. The Evegico fought in ordered for- 
mations, and their main enemies were the Pequi. When the Spaniards 
slept or camped in Evegico houses, the Indians burned the houses after- 
ward, possibly because of some magical belief. The Catio fought frequently 


against the Ant lochia, hiring neighboring Indians to accompany their war 
parties and making slaves of their prisoners. They had forts, such as one 
called Nobobarco, on the summits of hills. So brave were these Indians 
that when the conquistadors brought a bulldog to tear one of them to 
pieces the Indian said, without fear or sign of pain, "Hurry, eat, eat." 

The Ancerma made war trophies of human skulls, which they painted 
vermilion, and of arms, legs, and skins stuffed with ashes, and placed them 
on tall bamboo poles in their village plazas. The Caramanta, Antiochia, 
Nutihara, Nore, Guaca, and Catio exhibited their trophies over the doors 
of their houses. 


Simon (1882-92) ascribes cannibalism to the Ancerma, but Lopez de 
Velasco (1916) denies it, and Robledo, whose word carries more weight 
as he was one of their conquerors, states that they practiced little can- 
nibalism but ate game animals. It is possible that these Indians were 
cannibalistic only on ritual occasions and that their practices corresponded 
to Simon's statement that "they held that those who ate the flesh or drank 
the blood of the vanquished would become superior to him." 

The Caramanta bought Indian slaves from the Ancerma in order to 
eat them. The Antiochia did likewise, and, according to Simon, they held 
their slaves over a special stone where they cut open their breasts and 
removed the fat to make torches to illuminate their mine tunnels. They 
ate the flesh of these victims and also sold it to others. Descobar {in 
Jijon y Caamano, 1936-38, vol. 2) claims that they fattened their sons — 
perhaps referring to the sons of slaves — and ate them during feasts. The 
Buriticd, Nutihara, Catio, and Abibe ate only their enemies. The Nore 
and Guaca ate the sons of slaves taken in war as well as captives and old 
male slaves. 


On the subject of art nothing can be added to the statements made 
concerning the tribes east of the Cauca River (this volume, p. 307). 

The Ancerma gathered with their principal men in the houses of their 
chiefs, and for 3 or 4 days and nights danced, sang, and drank chicha 
until they were drunk; then they brawled, wounding and even killing 
each other. Chicha was generally used, being drunk as an intoxicant 
during communal religious and social feasts. To become drunk the 
Ancerma mixed an herb, called "tabaque," with chicha or with other 
drinks. In addition to chicha the Nore and Guaca made an intoxicating 
drink of certain roots. 


The Ancerma had wooden idols, the faces of which were painted various 
colors. On a hill, called Buena Vista by the Spaniards, they had a large 


sanctuary to which only the chiefs and priests had access. The main god 
was called Xixarama, and the sun and moon were his children. The 
sun and moon were supplicated for rain to water the crops. The Ancerma 
sent two virgins to a high hill, where Xixarama was thought to have 
intercourse with them. 

The Ancerma also had priests or shamans, who cured by means of 
herbs as well as by passing their hands over the patient, massaging, suck- 
ing with the mouth, and blowing the supposed cause of the sickness into 
the air. When the sky darkened and rain threatened, they blew and spit 
upward, gesturing the rain away. 

The Caramanta kept idols of wood and gold, some in their houses and 
others placed between bamboo posts at the entrances of their dwellings. 
They had temples in which they sacrificed Indians, cutting out the heart 
and parading with it while executing "areytos" or dances. To obtain 
water or sunshine necessary for their farming, they made sacrifices. 

Among the Antiochia there was a "demon" cult. Old men spoke with 
this divinity and communicated their replies to the faithful. The demon 
or god of the Nutibara, called "Guaca," was represented as a jaguar. Its 
temple, a hut with the entrance facing east, was filled with gold offerings. 
The Nore and Guaca also had temples. The Evegico did not worship 
idols but had priests who spoke with the divinity. The Catio lacked 
temples, but worshiped two deities, Avira, the benevolent god — the 
Spaniards were called "Aira," the son of God — and Cunicuva, the evil 
god. They also worshiped the stars, had a legend of the flood, and believed 
that the souls of the dead were transformed into jaguars, pumas, and 
other animals. The Toro and Zopia were said to worship a "demon." 


These tribes had extensive knowledge of curative plants, and the Toro 
drank the juice of "bencenuco" against serpent bites. 

Measures and weights were used by the Catio and Evegico in trade. 
The Antiochia used the balance beam, with gold weights. 

Simon and Castellanos claimed that the Catio had a form of writing, 
which consisted of inscribing their histories in hieroglyphics painted on 
their cotton blankets. (Cf. with the Cuna, this volume, p. 268.) 


Uribe Angel (1885, pp. 520-524) sketches the picture of the Indians 
who, in 1880, survived in the northeastern part of the State of Antioquia, 
near the Province of Choco. Because of its climate and diseases, such as 
malaria, this region was infrequently penetrated by Whites. The Indians 
described by Uribe Angel must have been predominantly though not en- 
tirely Catio. 


The Indians practiced little agriculture, which was restricted to small 
plots of maize, sugarcane, and bananas. Hunting and fishing had assumed 
greater importance than formerly, and the Indians were provided with 
firearms and iron fishhooks. They slightly roasted maize and ground it, 
both for ordinary consumption and for a ration taken on trips. They 
became intoxicated frequently by drinking the traditional chicha, made 
of fermented ground maize, and modern aguardiente (hard liquor), and 
they used considerable tobacco. 

Houses were still built on platforms. The Indians buried their dead 
under the house and abandoned it to build another some distance away. 
They were very clean, habitually bathing in the river each morning before 
breakfast and again during the day. They decorated themselves with 
red (bixa), applied to the face, arms, and legs, and with drawings done 
in a blackish pigment made from a fruit called "jagua." They dressed 
in bark cloth (corteza "mahagua") and a mantle of commercial cloth 
worn as a cape. Around their necks they wore strings of beads (cha- 
quiras), which included small glass beads and pieces of vanilla wood 
and sweet basil, which they called "yerba del buen querer" ("pleasing 

Women performed domestic chores, cared for the children, and trans- 
ported burdens while traveling. Men cleared the forest for farm plots 
and hunted and fished, foraging with their blowguns, firearms, and 

A girl had an initiation feast, after which she married the first man 
she met. A boy had to show his skill with his blowgun by shooting a 
maize grain thrown into the air. 

These Indians were ruled, according to the Colonial system, by a gov- 
ernor and a group of captains and judges, that is, by a cabildo or council 
of Indians. 

The native religious cult had disintegrated, and the Indians had 
acquired some Catholicism, though they still believed in the gods, Cala- 
gavi and Antomia. 


Between 1916 and 1922 an intelligent missionary, Mother Laura, made 
interesting observations on several Indian groups, including those of the 
banks of the Rio Sucio and the Tugurido and Murri Rivers, those in 
Antado and Chimiado, and even some Catio in the jungles of the Sinu to 
which they had fled, pressed by modern colonists, from the mountains of 
Antioquia and Choco. The subsequent ethnographic data are taken from 
her account (Madre Laura de Santa Catalina, 1936). New linguistic data 
on the Catio are supplied by Fr. Pablo del Santisimo Sacramento (1936). 

These Indians still resist cultural change, clinging to their native customs 
and disliking to adopt modern clothing and rules. Distrust and suspicion 


are their defense against foreigners, and they do not wish to submit to the 
jurisdiction of Colombian laws. They settle injuries and wrongs by pay- 
ments, after which disputants remain friends as if nothing had happened. 


Each family has a small parcel of land on which it cultivates maize, yuca 
(sweet manioc), arracacha, mafafa, sugarcane, and a perennial species of 
bean called "vida." Groups assist each other in farming, singing to the 
rhythm of their work. The Catio gather a fragrant wild root, called "jara- 
mali," which they greatly relish. 

Game animals include deer, opossums, guagua, and rabbits. The skulls 
of slain animals are hung from the roof beams of the huts. The Indians 
now raise pigs, chickens, and dogs. Fishing is very important. The In- 
dians stay in caves on the riverbanks, where the men fish at night with 
hooks, while during the day the women show great skill in catching by 
hand fish called "cuere cueriar" ("cuere" means "fish" in Catio) that live 
under rocks. 

Meals consist of ground maize, roasted bananas which take the place 
of bread and accompany all meals, roasted or broiled game in a state of 
decomposition, and boiled birds and fish, both of which are eaten bones, 
entrails, and all. They occasionally obtain beef, and, though little 
acquainted with sweets, they use chocolate. 


The Catio still live in huts elevated on platforms about 2 m, (6 feet) 
above the ground and reached by a wooden ladder. These huts are 
circular, about 2.4 m. (8 feet) in diameter, and roofed with thatch. In- 
side, there is a shelf holding calabash cups, pottery cooking pans, and ollas. 
The fireplace is in the center and over it hang the skulls of wild animals 
and some bones. 


Men wear a breachclout (ambura) 1^^ varas (about 48 inches) long, 
which is usually made of linen and sometimes is decorated with bone beads 
(chaquiras). Women also wear a cloth (jampuri) covering the genitals. 
It is twice as long as the men's ambura and is made of flowered, or striped, 
modern, commercial printed cloth in various colors, except green and yel- 
low, which they do not like. Over these, both sexes wear a mantle about 
4 m. (13 feet) long. Men wear theirs so that it somewhat covers the face, 
and the end falls behind to the ground. Women's are worn over the 
shoulders, with one end wrapped around behind so as to cover the left hip. 
Everyone adorns his body with figures painted black or red. Women 


comb their hair to fall over the shoulders and wear chaquira necklaces 
(ocama) which hang down to the breast. Young women wear roses 
around their necks and, if they can obtain it, a red scarf, which they all 
desire. Men have long hair hanging down behind, chaquira necklaces, 
and, if unmarried, a garland of roses. Chiefs wear a garland of leaves, 
and shamans (jaibana) one of feathers. 


The modern Cafio make pottery water jars, ollas, and plates, calabash 
drinking cups, and a variety of baskets. They also make blowguns but 
purchase firearms, machetes, and axes from the Whites. 


Marriage is very brittle, and woman's position is inferior. Upon mar- 
riage the woman goes to the house of her husband or father-in-law to be- 
come her husband's faithful servant in farming, running the household, 
and carrying goods. She may be thrown out and replaced by another 
woman when the husband wishes, even if she has small children, merely 
because "he is tired of her." She may not take anything from the house- 
hold with her. She accepts her fate, saying, "If you are a woman, what 
can you do ? It is the Indian law." A married woman may even be turned 
out by her own father. 

Children are cared for by their parents until they can shift for them- 
selves, and they are readily abandoned. The attitude toward children is 
shown by the common remark, "My son went away" or "My daughter left 
the hut. It was good of her." Few know much about their own parents, 
and they take whatever name they please. 

The Indians are being dispossessed of their lands by the Whites, as 
happened in Murri, where they had to yield lands to which they had held 
title for more than 50 years. Every 6 months the men go to work in the 
harvest on the civilized, neighboring haciendas. 

There is no more warfare. 


When a person is sick his relatives call a shaman (jaibana) ; if he 
becomes worse he is abandoned in a corner of the house on the belief 
that nothing can be done, and the family continues normal life. 

At death, the relatives sing sad songs. They place many specially 
purchased mantles on the corpse, which they bury, afterward burning 
the house. "Tobo" or "moindii" leaves are placed at the foot of the 
ladders of other houses to prevent the soul from entering a place it likes, 
for it would go into a house which lacked such leaves and remain there 



Decorative art is influenced by the Indian's dislike of certain colors. 
They not only lack native terms for some colors, but they assured Madre 
Laura that "it is not easy for an Indian to distinguish green, blue and 
yellow ; they are all the same color." 

Drums, trumpets always worn suspended from the neck, and modern 
stringed instruments or small guitars comprise present-day musical 
instruments. The Catio sing melancholy and soft songs in the native 
language, especially when drunk. Rhythmical singing to the tempo of 
work plays an important part in their communal farming labor. 

The Indians dance when they have gathered together and become 
drunk, or on religious occasions. Dancing is not done in pairs, but in 
groups, each person performing individually, even in the modem 

The Indians make intoxicating chicha of maize, fermentation of which 
is started by the addition of some grains that have been chewed. They 
also like modern hard liquor. 


The god most frequently worshiped and feared today is Antomia, who 
gives shamans their power. The Indians living in Ure believe that an- 
other god, Caragabi, had married in Quibdo, now capital of Choco, but, 
when his wife was unfaithful, he transformed her into a bird as punish- 
ment and went to the sky with a sister or sister-in-law of his mother. 
The origin myth of the creation and manner of living of the Indians is 
given below. 


Shamanism is of great importance and virtually dominates the activities 
of the Catio. A few old Spanish elements may have entered the pattern. 
The shaman or witch (jaibana) has magical power, which Antomia gives 
him when his initiation is concluded. He is both feared and sought, as 
he may cause as well as cure disease. 

The confirmation of a shaman is celebrated with intoxicating drinks, 
while an older shaman performs the initiation rites. The neophyte is 
put in a trance, and the master speaks in a low voice, then whistles three 
times to the god Antomia, and hangs a bunch of wooden figurines and a 
mirror, the insignia of the profession, around the neophyte's neck. When 
the young man awakens, the ceremony is completed. Henceforth, the 
new shaman may perform cures and ask payment for his services, usually 
one or more deer, or the equivalent. 

Both men and women may be shamans, and some persons are destined 
before birth to take up this profession. In such cases, a practicing shaman 
performs rites over the mother's belly, and from time to time after the 


child is born nocturnal ceremonies are held with dances and drinking, 
while the child is bathed in water of "anami," after which the master 
sings and passes his magic stick over the child's body. 

In case of sickness the shaman fasts during the evening, and that night 
he dreams what he must do. Next morning he goes to the patient who 
must be purified of all contact with or influence by Catholic religious 
objects. He blows tobacco smoke over the ailing place or over the whole 
body and passes his idols (jai) over the body. He has various idols, one 
for each sickness and one that is larger and more powerful than the 
others. He is aided by a young woman, who must have her teeth and 
fingernails painted to the end with "jampuri" and who wears bunches of 
herbs (anami) around her neck. The woman kills a chicken, boils it, and 
throws the cooking water into the river without spilling a drop lest the 
jai be annoyed and not complete the cure. At the curing altar nine jai 
hang from a pole to the left of the snake jai, or cross (a small tablet of 
white balsa wood painted with red and black zigzag lines). A small 
calabash cup of hard liquor is placed at the foot of each jai, and 
the cooked chicken is located so that its odor will please them and make 
them cure better. The shaman prays to each jai, which he takes down to 
wet the end of it in the liquor. He finishes off the liquor in each cup, 
then massages the patient with chewed tobacco, blows on the person's 
fingertips and crown, and rubs him with a narrow piece of new cloth. 
In the cup of liquor poured for the snake jai he places three iron nails 
and then puts one end of this jai in the patient's mouth and the other 
end against the mirror which every shaman carries around his neck. 
After this he gathers up the chicken and the liquor with the nails in it, 
and the female assistant casts them into the river, for these are left-overs 
of what the jai ate or drank, and the sickness adheres to them. 

A shaman has the power of causing disease, and only a more powerful 
shaman can cure it. He may make a child sick with his breath, causing 
an obstacle to become lodged in its throat. This causes death if another 
shaman does not cure it. The Indians distinguish natural death from 
that caused by witchcraft. In the latter case the identity of the evil 
sorcerer is ascertained by covering the face of the deceased with ashes, 
then washing them off when the face will resemble that of the witch. 

In addition to shamanism, curing is accomplished with various herbs. 
Chewed tobacco leaves are rubbed on the stomach for colic. For 
diarrhea and dysentery a large quantity of bees' honey is drunk. 


The following legend, collected by Madre Laura de Santa Catalina, 
combines native myth with historical tales and even has traces of 
Christian influence : 


When God created the world, the Indians were people, not animals, and knew a 
great deal. But one Indian woman was deceived by the very poisonous serpent of the 
kind called birri, and married him, hiding the fact from her father. To conceal her 
serpent husband, the woman placed him under a tree and covered him with firewood 
she had brought for the house. When the wood was nearly used up, she brought more. 
After a while she gave birth to a serpent son. The serpent mother-in-law with many 
members of her species attended the birth to see her grandson. When the serpents had 
gone, the Indian woman's father returned, and, smelling the odor of birri or of their 
excrement, he removed the firewood and found the serpent husband and the little ser- 
pent grandson underneath it. He understood what had happened. In a fury he 
whipped his daughter and killed the serpent and his grandson. At this, the serpent 
mother-in-law returned to revive her son, but the body turned into a soldier, called 
"Spaniard." Full of fury, the soldier made war on the Indians and drove them to the 
mountains. Then the Indians became fools and animals, and did not again turn into 
people. They would not become people again, because the serpent soldier would return 
and finish them. 

Another stoty related that Dabeiba was formerly a cold land, but a 
shaman stood on an eminence on the right bank of the Rio Sucio and 
blew tobacco smoke over it, making it a warm country. Since then 
Dabeiba has been unhealthy for children, 


The province of the Ahurrd (Avurrd) was the territory between the 
Magdalena and Cauca Rivers, east of Cartama. The Nutahe and Ureso 
lived east of the Cauca River, between it and the Nechi River, The Ta- 
hami, who were related culturally to the Nutahe, occupied the same area. 
The Yamici were located between the Nechi and Force Rivers. Thus, 
all these tribes inhabited the northern portion of the Sub-Andean culture 
area and adjoined the culture area of Darien or Cenu, i.e., the North 
Colombia Lowlands. 


Ethnographic information is scant, but it shows that these tribes prac- 
ticed agriculture, cultivating maize, beans, sweet manioc, sweetpotatoes. 
yams, and cotton. 

Among animals hunted were peccaries, which ran in large herds in 
this territory. The Yamici captured and raised the young ones, which 
they fattened, as the Ahurrd fattened mute dogs. 

The Ahurrd made loaves of salt, in the same way as the tribes farther 
south, whereas the Yamici used salt water from springs, without crystal- 
lizing or cooking it. The Ahurrd had storage places in their houses for 
foods, such as maize and manioc, and the Yamici preserved fish, making 
it into meal. 



These tribes built large houses. In the territory of the Nutabe and 
Ureso the Spaniards found large, ancient structures which had been de- 

The Aburrd made aqueducts for water and very wide roads. The 
Nutabe and Ureso also made wide straight roads, and, over the Cauca 
River, bridges of woven vines, three palms wide, with hand rails. 


The Yaiiiici wore virtually nothing but adorned themselves with 
feathers, ornaments, breastplates, and diadems of gold, all finely worked 
and well burnished or hammered. The Nutabe and Ureso dressed in white 
cotton cloth, ornamented with colors, and adorned themselves with plumes, 
gold crowns and armor, and red paint (bixa). The Aburrd clad them- 
selves in a blanket, iy2 varas long and 1 vara wide (a,bout 48 by 32 
inches), and the men held the penis up by means of a white or colored 
thread affixed to the belt and tied around the prepuce. They wore a 
crown of feathers, gathered the hair up on the head, had a nutria pelt 
hanging down the back, and painted themselves with bixa. 


The Nutabe and Ureso were good weavers and builders, and the Ya- 
, mici, like the tribes farther south, were gold miners and skilled gold- 

For hunting and warfare they used darts with fire-hardened paJm 
points, spear throwers, macanas, slings, bows and arrows, stone axes, and 


The Nutabe and Ureso carried on trade with the Tahami, but the Ya- 
mici fought with the people on their frontiers, the Patdngoro, Aburrd, 
Guamoco, and even the Malebu of Mompox. The Yamici enslaved their 
prisoners but did not sacrifice or eat them. 


Acosta, 1901 ; Andagoya (m Jijon y Caamafio, 1936-38, vol. 2) ; Arena Paz, 1922; 
Asensio, 1921; Bennett, 1944; Castellanos, 1847 (1852, 1874) ; Cieza de Leon, 1932; 
Cuervo (see Sardilla, 1891-94, vol. 2) ; Descobar {in Jijon y Caamano, 1936-38, 
vol. 2); Fernandez Piedrahita, 1881; Ford, 1944; Garcia, 1937; Guillen Chaparro, 
1889; Hermano Justo, 1943; Hernandez de Alba, 1938; Jijon y Caamano, 1936-38, 
vol. 2 ; Laura de Santa Catalina, 1936 ; Lopez de Velasco, 1916 ; Ospina, 1905, 1918 ; 
Pablo de Santisimo Sacramento, 1936; Posado Arango, 1875; Restrepo, 1937; Res- 
trepo Tirado, 1929; Rivet, 1943; Robledo (m Jijon y Caamano, 1936-38, vol. 2; also 
see Sardilla, 1891-94, vol. 2) ; Sardilla, 1891-94, vol. 2; Simon, 1882-92; Uribe Angel, 
1885; Wassen, 1936. 


By Gregorio Hernandez de Alba 


A group of Tropical Forest tribes, which differed culturally from their 
neighbors, the Sub-Andean peoples of the Cauca River (this volume, 
p. 297) and of the mountains extending north to the Sierra Nevada de 
Santa Marta (Handbook, vol. 2, p. 867), occupied the tropical rain forests 
between the lower Magdalena River and the Atrato River. Their terri- 
tory comprised nearly all the present Department of Bolivar and, in the 
extreme west, part of the Department of Antioquia in the region of the 
Gulf of Uraba. More precisely, this area was bounded on the south by 
the northernmost Sub- Andean tribes (the Nore, Guaca, Evegico, and 
Remedio), on the west by the Atrato River, formerly called the Darien, on 
the north by the Atlantic Ocean, once known as the Mar del Norte, and 
on the east by the Magdalena River. The country in general is composed 
of low, swampy areas alternating with elevations that mark the extension 
of the Cordillera Central, and its climate is hot, about 27° to 30° C. 
(80.6° to 86° F.). 

Among the tribes living in this area at the time of the Conquest were 
the Calamari, Turhaco, Tolu, Urabd, Genu (and its subtribes, the Fincenu, 
Pancenu, Genufana) , Utibara, Yapel, Mompox (Malebu), Tamalameque, 
Bonda, Buritacd, Pacabueye, Pemeo, Yamici, and Zendagua. These tribes 
soon became extinct, and there is insufficient record of them to indicate 
their cultural and political relationships to one another. Of the tribes just 
enumerated, we have ethnographic data only on the first ten ; the Bonda, 
Buritacd, and others were not described. 

Jijon y Caamaiio (1936-38, vol. 2) gives evidence that the Urabd 
Yapel, Genu, Fincenu, and Gatio spoke the same languages. As Gatio 
belongs with Ghoco, so must those related to it (Jijon y Caamafio, 
1936-38, vol. 2; Rivet, 1943). 


The Galamari, and several tribes culturally similar to them, occupied 
the coast and small islands of the Atlantic from the Magdalena River 
west to the Urabd, who lived on the Gulf of Uraba (or Darien), and 
south to the various Genu subtribes. The center of Galamari territory 
was the present city of Cartagena, which was formerly called Calamari 
or Calamar, the native name for crabs, which were abundant on its beaches 



(Peredo, 1919, pp. 450-480). Other tribes listed here were the Carex 
(on an island), Turbaco {Tiiruaco), Car on, Bahaire, Cos pique, Cocon, 
Caricocox (Coricocox), Matarapa, Zamha, Masaguapo, Guaspates, 
Turipana, Mahates, Cipacua, Oca, Tubard, and Cornapacua (Castellanos, 
1852, pp. 365^62; Simon, 1882-92). 

Simon states that all these people were known as Mocana and that they 
claimed to have originated from groups that came by canoe along the 
coast from Maracapana and Caracas territory in Venezuela. Next to the 
southwest, on the coast, were the Tolu (Tulu), and then the Urabd. 
The Urabd had fled from the Spaniards to the Atrato (Darien) River 
(Cieza de Leon, 1932). 

Inland were the Cenu (Zenu), whom the conquistadors divided as 
follows : Fincenu, occupying all the Sinu River Basin ; Pancenu, the 
region east, toward the San Jorge River; and Cenufana (Sennfana, Ccnil- 
fama, Ceinefana, Cenufara, Cermefama), where Zaragoza and Remedies 
are now situated, in the vicinity of the Nechi River and its affluents, in the 
Department of Antioquia (Acosta, 1901, ch. 7, p. 84; Mesa Jaramillo, 
1905). East of the Tolii lived the Yapel (Ayapel), and east of them the 
Mompox, more properly known as the Malibues (Malebues) (Asencio, 
1921), and the Xegua and Tagua (Heredia, 1916, pp. 59-63). The Tama- 
lameque, adjoining the Pacabueyes, lived east of the Ariguani, on the 
right or southern bank of the Cesare (Zezare, today Cesar) River (Re- 
bollo, 1919). 


Rodrigo de Bastidas reached the coast of this area in 1501, but the true 
Conquest was begun in 1510 by Alonso de Ojeda, Nicuesa, and Juan 
de la Cosa, when Ojedo founded the first settlement, San Sebastian de 
Uraba, at the northeast extremity of the Gulf of Uraba. Some 
months later the Indians besieged and destroyed this town, and the 
Spaniards, under Nicuesa's direction, founded a second settlement, 
Santa Maria la Antiqua del Darien, on the Atrato River, but it suf- 
fered the same fate as the first. Twenty-three years later Heredia 
founded Cartagena at the Indian port of Calamari. This settlement was 
destined to become the principal port of ingress and supply for a large 
portion of South America, especially the Pacific countries, as there was 
no other route across the continent north of the great road from Argen- 
tina to Chile. 

Ojeda carried an edict that the Indians should become Christians and 
subjects of the King of Spain, because the Pope had given these Spaniards 
charge of their lands. This edict was read to the Indians, who did not 
understand it, but those who grasped its point replied "that one god 
seemed all right, as they did not wish to argue or to give up their religion, 
but it was necessary to be very frank about this stranger, the Holy 
Father, who gave away lands that were not his own ; and as for the King, 


he must be very poor, as he coveted, from such a distance, the little they 
had, and very bold, as he threatened those he did not know" (Gomara, 
1901, p. 20). 

The result of the Indians' resistance in this region was their progressive 
decrease in numbers and their replacement ,by Negro slaves. In the 
Province of Cartagena there were 83 towns in 1772, with 13,993 Chris- 
tianized Indians, but a few years later only 7,000 or 8,000 Indians tribu- 
taries remained in 100 repartimientos (Lopez de Velasco, 1915). The 
proportion of Negro slaves in 1772 is illustrated by the section of Tur- 
baco, which had 571 Indians and 537 slaves, and by Tolu, with 1,093 
Indians and 260 slaves (Pifieres, 1917). 

In 1542, Heredia gave his soldiers the first encomiendas, each with 
its Indians and chiefs, in the Uraba regions — Chuchyraly, Queyva, El 
Tuerto, Carcate, and Olla (Heredia, 1915 b). At San Sebastian de 
Uraba, 729 natives remained in 1772 (Peredo, 1919). The region of 
Uraba became the objective of the Spaniards on the one hand and of the 
English, Dutch, and even French on the other. The famed riches of 
the region of Darien led to the formation in Scotland of the Darien 
Company or the Scotch Company, and the first immigrants or colonists 
arrived in November 1698. The few who remained a year later were 
pushed out by the Spaniards (Arevalo, in Cuervo, 1891-94, vol. 2). The 
Indians of the town of Uraba continued to resist subjugation, taking up 
arms against the neighboring people of Santa Maria la Antigua in 1724 
and again in 1750. In 1750 the Governor, Don Joaquin Valcarcel de Mi- 
randa, counted 5,000 families of Indians (Cuervo, 1891-94, vol. 2, p. 373). 
In Cenu, the Sinu River section, there were 4,580 natives and 244 Negro 
slaves in 1772 (Pineres, 1917). Around San Nicolas there were 521 
Indians, and at Cerete, formerly called Mocari, were 518 Indians, who 
cultivated their fields on the Sinu River and spoke Spanish in addition 
to their native language (Peredo, 1919). Soon after the Conquest some 
slaves escaped and established their own village near Mompox. Here 
they were served by the Indians, being much afraid of the Spaniards 
(Andagoya, in Jijon y Caamano, 1936-38, vol. 2, doc. 2). At the time of 
writing his account, Lopez de Velasco (1915) stated that there were 2,000 
Indian tributaries in 26 repartimientos around the main city of Santa Cruz 
de Mompox, which Heredia had founded. Other cities were Tamalame- 
que, founded in Tamalameque territory, and Chiriguana, but the former 
did not survive. 

The valor of these Indians was the trait that impressed the chroniclers 
most. The Calamari were described as astute, brave on land and sea, 
clever in their maneuvers, and resourceful. The Urahd hated Criollos 
and colored people, whether Negroes, mulattoes, or zambos, because the 
conquistadors had used the Negroes from the very beginning in their 
wars against the Indians. 


All the native peoples of the Colombian Atlantic littoral, except the 
Cuna, Choco, and Goajiro, have disappeared culturally and been absorbed 
racially. Joaquin Acosta states (1901), "Degradation, servitude, and 
intermixture have destroyed the rest." 


The coastal tribes of the North Colombia Lov^rlands are distinguished 
culturally from their Sub-Andean neighbors to the south in Antioquia 
and Caldas by lacking cannibalism and by using feather ornaments, 
poisoned weapons, and sleeping hammocks, but the interior tribes of this 
area share cannibalism, human trophies, and woven cotton garments with 
the Sub-Andean tribes. For 8 tribes studied, the historical sources men- 
tion the occurrence of culture elements with the following frequencies*: 
Agriculture, 6 times ; hunting, 5 ; fishing, 5 ; woven cloth, 5 ; feather or- 
naments, 4 ; body painting, 2 ; temples, 4 ; bridges, 1 ; hammocks, 5 ; canoes, 
3 ; mound burial, 2 ; idols, 2 ; quivers, 1 ; balsa rafts, 1 ; shamanism, 3 ; 
polygyny, 3 ; marriage with a consanguineous relative, 1 ; prostitution, 1 ; 
sexual inverts, 1; poisoned arrow, 5; cannibalism, 2; human trophies, 1. 
These 22 elements were reported among the tribes (who, it must be 
remembered, were little studied by the historians) with the following 
frequencies : Calamari, 14 ; Genu, 14 ; Urabd, 8 ; Tolu, 7 ; Yapel, 5 ; Mom- 
pox, 4 ; Turbaco, 4 ; Tamalameque, 2. 


All these tribes practiced farming, supplementing it with hunting and, 
along the coast and in the rivers and swamps, with fishing. Castellanos 
(1852) mentions the following fruits: Caimitos (star apples, Ghrysophyl- 
lum cainito), guanabanas (soursop, Annona muricata), anones (sweetsop, 
Annona squamosa) , hobos (hog plum, Splondias lutea), guayabas (guava, 
Psidium), papayas (Papaya carica), mamones (genip, Melicocca hijuga), 
pineapples (Ananus sativus), and bananas. Simon lists (1882-92) the 
following crops: Maize, sweet manioc (yuca), sweetpotatoes, kidney 
beans, and others. Cotton was cultivated for its fibers. The main Turbaco 
crops were maize, manioc, and cotton (Peredo, 1919). Heredia (1916), 
saw many cultivated fields among the Indians and noted that those of the 
Tolu were especially large. The Genu had houses full of maize. 

Hunting yielded rabbits, guinea pigs, iguanas, peccaries, guaquiras, 
guaratinagas, various tortoises or turtles, and such birds as parrots 
(papagayos), catarnicas, perdices, wild turkeys (pavas), and guans 
(paujiles). The Urabd caught and raised young peccaries and when they 
were fat ate them. In addition to other wild animals, the Genu ate 

A special food, particularly of the Turbaco, was manioc loaves or 
tortillas, called "cazabe." The Tolu ate bees' honey. The Genu espe- 

* All CenH subtribes are counted as CenA. 


cially the Cenujana, preserved meat smoked on babracots. As condiments 
the Cenu used salt, which they manufactured locally, and aji (chili pep- 
per.) Simon (1882—92) accredits the Yapcl with using pepper to pre- 
serve fish. 


These peoples lived in large villages. Turhaco villages were enclosed 
by two or three fences of trees. The "court" of the female chief of the 
Cenu consisted of 20 houses, each surrounded by three or four small 
storehouses or granaries. The village was protected with a stockade. 
Yapel villages had plazas and well-laid streets. Mompox and Tainala- 
meque settlements were on the banks of the Magdalena River. The 
principal Tamalameque town was divided into three wards (barrios), 
each triangular in plan, with a central plaza and a strong defense. 

Houses were built of poles and thatch, but sometimes they were con- 
structed of poles, mud, and grass, e. g., those of the Turhaco, which had 
two doors and were conical (beehive), the thatched roof reaching to the 
ground. The Cenu built a temple, more than 100 paces long, with its 
interior divided into three naves. It was probably rectangular, for Simon 
(1882-92) likened it to Spanish buildings. 

A sleeping hammock was used by the Calamari, Cenu, Tolu, Turhaco, 
and Urahd. These tribes used cooking pots, and the Calamari also had 
large jars for storing water. The Cenii used boxes ("habas") for storing 
articles of personal adornment. 

Outstanding structures were the Calamari wells and Urahd tombs. 
These tombs were enclosed in mounds, which w-ere paved with carefull} 
laid slabs. The vault inside was reached by descending stairs of well- 
dressed stones (Garcia Carbonell, 1918). Across the Magdalena River, 
the Mompox laid "bridges," consisting of vines more than 150 fathoms 
long (Heredia, 1916). 


The lack of clothing was general, owing to the hot climate, especially 
on the coast. Calamari men wore a fringe of fine gold tubes covering 
their genitals. This tribe was unusual in wearing deerskin sandals 
(abarcas) tied with cords. Turhaco and Tolu women wore a white or 
painted cotton skirt (manta) from the belt to the feet. Among the 
Urahd, men covered their genitals with a fringe of gold tubes or of 
snaillike ornaments (caracoles) attached to the belt, while women wore 
a cotton manta covering them from the breast down and, sometimes, 
another mantle over it for protection. Cenu women also wore cotton 
mantas, "curiously worked," i. e., decorated with colored drawings. 

As adornments, particularly for warfare, feather crowns were worn by 
all but the Magdalena River tribes. Body painting was practiced by the 
Calamari and Yapel. Common gold ornaments included diadems, pec- 

653334 — 48 23 


toral plates (chagualas), earrings, loop-shaped nose ornaments (cara- 
curis), finger rings, and strings of bone beads (chaquiras) and gold beads 
which were worn around the neck, the arms, and the ankles. 


These tribes traveled the rivers and the ocean in canoes propelled by 
paddles. The Cenu went down the river in balsa canoes to the markets, 
where they abandoned them, being unable to return against the current 
(Striffler, 1920, 1922). 

Chiefs' litters are mentioned for the Cemi. 


Bark cloth was not made in this area, in contrast to the middle Cauca 
River, and cotton weaving was the main industry. The coastal Indians 
made textiles mainly for trade with the Cenu and other inland tribes, and 
they excelled in manufacturing hammocks woven of cord. 

Ceramic products included cooking vesels and, in the regions of few 
springs, large water-storage jars. Containers were made also of cala- 

Other industries mentioned, though not practiced by all tribes, were 
salting fish, manufacturing of dugout canoes, making poison for arrows 
and other projectiles, and the decoration of calabash cups with special 
pitch or resin. The last was a specialty of the Urabd. 

Goldwork gave Darien, or Cinu, such fame that a saying of early 
Cartagena was, "Misfortune to Peru if they discover Cenu." The Fin- 
cenu were the main gold producers and outstanding goldsmiths. 


These people were divided into villages or groups, each with a chief 
(cacique) and subchiefs. Among those mentioned were: Chief Carex of 
the Calamari whose captains or subchiefs were Piorex and Curixix; 
Duhoa, chief of the Bahaire; Tocana, of the Masaguapo ; and Cambayo 
of the Mahates. There were also dependencies. For example, the Oca 
were a dependency of the Cipacua, who were enemies of the Mahates. The 
Ttibara were governed by the chief Morotoava, and his nephew. Hare. 
Tolu divisions were each under minor chiefs, and each Urabd group or 
village had its chief. The Yapel had a principal chief named Ayapel. The 
chiefs of the two groups of Mompox living on opposite sides of the Mag- 
dalena River in 1541 were friends and relatives (Heredia, 1915 a). The 
three divisions of the Cenu were united under related rulers, for the prin- 
cipal chiefs of the Fincenu, Pancenu, and Cenufana were brothers. The 
following legend recounts the origin of this government : 

There were three gods (demons) who, in ancient times, were the chiefs and head 
men. The principal one was Zenufana, who took the richest lands for his dominion 
while his sister ruled the lands of Finzenu. He was so fond of this sister that he 


desired that all his own vassals and those of the other two Zenu divisions accord her 
the same reverence that he himself received. To this end he ordered that all the head- 
men of the other two Zenus be buried in the Zenu of his sister, with all the gold that 
could be collected at the time of death, according to the custom, or at least that they be 
placed in the cemetery of the great temple and house of the Devil which stood in this 
Finzenu, where the Spaniards found it; or, if they wished to be buried not in this 
cemetery but in their own lands, that they send one-half the gold assembled at the time 
of death that it might be buried in their stead in the cemetery, an unbreakable law that 
no one dared disobey. [Simon, 1882-92, vol. 4, pt. 1, ch. 19, p. 26.] 

The main village of the Fincenu was governed by a female chief and 
her husband, and she was more respected than the chiefs of the other two 
Cenii subtribes. She had female servants who carried her on their backs 
to her hammock, which was more beautiful than those of common people, 
and the floor of her house was covered with grass, like a tapestry. The 
chieftainness at the time of the discovery was called "La Tota." The 
chief of the Cenufana was Utibara, son of Anunaibe. His brother, 
Quinunchu, ruled the mountains of Abibe and his people paid him tribute 
in smelted gold, textiles, animals, etc. When he went to war or to visit his 
subjects, Utibara was accompanied by squads of Indians, who carried 
him in a gold-adorned litter. 

Marriage among the Calamari was arranged by the couple's parents, 
the young man sending the young woman one hammock while she sent 
him two. The union was celebrated in the bridegroom's home by the 
couple's relatives and friends, who drank chicha from a calabash cup. 
In a cup of chicha for his father-in-law, the young man had to place grains 
of gold. This ceremony was repeated three times daily for the next 
15 days and at the birth of his first child. As the Calamari were polyg- 
ynous, the feasts were held at each of a man's marriages. Premarital 
sexual freedom was allowed women, but both parties to adultery were 
punished by death. Some chroniclers, exaggerating the sexual license 
permitted, claiin that fathers had relations with their daughters, and sons 
with their mothers. 

The aristocratic class of the Urabd were polygynous, and they practiced 
marriage between a man and his sister's daughter, who became his prin- 
cipal wife. With inheritance passing to their son goods were thus retained 
in the family. 

The Cenu were also polygynous, and a man married as many wives as 
he could support. 


In their trading the coastal peoples specialized in textiles, fish, and 
hammocks. The Calamari, for example, traded these items with the Cenu 
for gold. The Cenu, especially the Cenufana, traded gold for salt, ham- 
mocks, textiles, and food. The Mompox acquired canoes from the Tolu 
on the Cauca River and carried them 9 leagues to the Magdalena River. 
The Urabd traded salt, fish, and specially raised and fattened peccaries 


to the interior tribes, and calabash vessels decorated with resin, their 
specialty, to people in Cartagena. The Tamalameque gathered with mem- 
bers of other tribes in the plazas of their main centers to hold markets. 

It appears that some chiefs received tribute from their own subjects 
or from federated tribes. This tribute consisted of gold, manufactured 
products, and plant and animal foods. The Spaniards used these tributes 
as the basis for the much greater taxation, which they made the Indians 
oi each encomienda and Church division pay to the encomenderos and 

Among the Urabd the sons of the principal wife were a man's heirs, 
the remaining sons receiving nothing. Among the Cenu, who had female 
chiefs, the sons were also heirs. 


At a death among the Urabd many people assembled in the house of 
of the deceased. That night they drank chicha and lamented in the dark- 
ness, then buried the deceased with his weapons, cherished possessions, 
food, jars of chicha, and living women, for they believed in life after 
death. The graves are described above. Ccnu and Yapel graves, much 
sought by the conquistadors for the famed riches they contained, were 
marked by mounds, which the Spaniards called "mogotes." The body 
was placed facing, east in a deep hole and was accompanied by the dead 
man's weapons and ornaments, and by jars of chicha, maize, and stone 
metates. Several women and servants, who had first been made drunk, 
were interred with the deceased. The grave was covered with red earth, 
which the mourners brought from a distant place. The ceremony lasted as 
long as there was chicha to drink, so that the size of the mound depended 
on the available quantity of chicha. At the Fincenu temple site, where all 
the Cenu chiefs were traditionally buried, each grave was marked either 
by a specially planted tree with a gold bell hung from it or by an earth 


The Calamari, Tamalameque, Tolu, Twhaco, and Urabd used poisoned 
darts or arrows, which they kept sheathed for their own protection in 
quivers. Other weapons reported were lances, spears, harpoons, 
macanas, and slings. The Cenu hurled gold (headed?) darts at the 
Spaniards. The Urabd bow was made of black palm wood and was a 
fathom or more long. 

Probably none of these tribes, except perhaps the Cenufana, practiced 
exocannibalism (see below), and Simon probably confused the Urabd 
with the Choco or Catio when he accredited them with eating human 

These Indians were valiant warriors, even the women. In one battle 
an 18-year-old girl killed eight Spaniards with her arrows. Women 


customarily went to war, some of them to pass weapons to their men and 
others as regular soldiers. The latter were young girls or virgins, and 
they were privileged to participate in the drunken, communal feasts, 
carrying their bows and arrows, when the Indians were not able to carry 
arms, as Heredia observed among the Calamari and Turhaco. Fighting 
was accompanied by cries and the sound of trumpets and other musical 
instruments. The Tolu fought in formations, orderly disposed in files. 
The Cenu chief preceded his warriors into battle, carried by his subjects 
on a litter decorated with gold, as among the ChibcJia of Tunja and 


The Cenufana, or subjects of Utibara, ate human corpses, according to 
one chronicler. It is uncertain whether they consumed their own dead, 
but a suggestion of exocannibalism, i. e., of enemies, is seen in the custom 
of placing human trophies over the house doors. Farther south, in the 
Sub-Andean zone, this custom is associated with exocannibalism. The 
Urahd seem to have practiced endocannibalism, cooking their own dead 
on babracots and eating them (Simon, 1882-92). 


Art work was practiced in connection with the decorative drawings on 
textiles, ceramic designs, gold objects in zoomorphic and anthropomorphic 
forms, idols, and resin-decorated calabashes. 

Musical instruments included drums, conch-shell trumpets (caracoles), 
trumpets, and whistles. 

Chicha, made of fermented maize or yuca, was in general use as an in- 
toxicating drink. 


The Calamari, Cenu, Cenufana, and Urahd had temples for their gods. 
The great temple of Fincenu accommodated 1,000 persons, and contained 
24 tall wooden idols covered with gold leaf and crowned with a tiara. For 
each, a hammock hung from a stick served as a receptacle for offerings. 
Around the temple were the graves of important persons, each covered by 
a mound or marked by a tree from which hung a gold bell. Another 
temple, divided into three naves, had a highly decorated hammock 
suspended from a cross pole resting on four supports in human form, two 
men and two women. Above the hammock, in which the god was supposed 
to repose, were two boxes for offerings. The temple was guarded so that 
common people might not enter. The Fincenu believed that their g:od. 
or "demon" as the Spaniards called him, appeared to them and spoke with 
the priest-shamans, who, like the present-day Goajiro shamans, were called 
"piaches." The most important idols in Cipacua and Cornapacua were a 
peccary (puerco espin) and eight gold ducks. The Indians believed that 


the god appeared in the form of animals, especially as a jaguar, which sug- 
gests a jaguar cult like that which was so widespread in South America. 
Among the Tolu and Calamari, shamans (mohanes) interpreted the 
gods' replies to the people, practiced magic, and cured the sick. Shaman- 
ism was inherited. Among the shaman's paraphernalia were pebbles kept 
in a pottery olla in the temple. To learn from the god, Buziraco, which 
herbs he should use to treat an illness, the shaman removed the pebbles 
from the olla. In one of the ceremonies, the shaman, accompanied by old 
men and women, entered the temple at night. The women threw their 
ornaments into the pottery vessel, which contained the pebjDles, tobacco 
leaves, and some water, while the shaman held a quantity of pulverized 
tobacco. He moved the pebbles in the water, and everyone looked and 
listened for the god in the water. Then the shaman took the tobacco 
powder in his mouth and blew it over everyone present, after which they 
did the same to him. Finally, the old women took their ornaments from 
the jar and carried the water away to purify their houses. 


In addition to the myth of the origin of the three Cemi rulers (above), 
the chroniclers recorded origin tales of the Calamari and Tolu. These 
Indians were said to have come from a man, Mechion, and a woman, 
Maneca. The woman had only one breast, where she concentrated her 
milk with greater abundance and strength than in two and thus gave her 
sons greater fortitude. These tribes related that once there were giants in 
their territory, people guilty of the heinous sin of being sexual inverts. 
The giants associated with women only for the purpose of having children, 
and when these were girls the midwives killed them. The giants were 
finally killed by lightning (Simon, 1882-92, vol. 3, pt. 1, ch. 8). Possibly 
this legend was intended to explain the existence of sexual inversion, rep- 
resented among the Calamari by the female warriors and by men who im- 
personated women and went from village to village selling their services 
like the ordinary prostitutes among them. 


The Calamari had a system of reckoning the time for planting and for 
harvesting maize, manioc, sweetpotatoes, and the like. Of the Mompox, 
Heredia said, "they are smarter than the peoples of the other provinces 
. . . because they handle weights and measures" (Heredia, 1915 a). 


Acosta, 1901; Andagoya {in Jijon y Caamano, 1936-38, vol. 2; English version, 
1865) ; Arevalo (in Cuervo [Sardilla], 1891-94, vol. 2) ; Asensio, 1921; Castellanes, 
1852 (1874) ; Cieza de Leon, 1932; Garcia Carbonell, 1918; Gomara, 1749 (m Acosta, 
1901) ; Heredia, 1915 a, 1915 b, 1916; Jijon y Caamano, 1936-38, vol. 2; Lopez de 
Velasco, 1915; Mesa Jaramillo, 1905; Peredo, 1919; Pineres, 1917; Rebollo, 1919; 
Rivet, 1943; Simon, 1882-92; Striffler, 1920, 1922. 


By Paul Kirch hoff 


In the dense forest of the eastern slope of the Cordillera Central, the 
monotony of which is only very rarely broken by small patches of savanna, 
two remarkable tribes have been described by Pedro de Aguado 
(1916-17) on the basis of information given to him by men who con- 
quered this region between 1557 and 1561. No later data are available 
on these tribes, who seem to have disappeared rapidly (map 6). 

The Patdngoro (Pantdgoro, Pantdgora, Palenque, Coroimdo) seem to 
have included the Zamand, Punchind, and Marquesote. The Amani evi- 
dently were a Patdngoro tribe that had been profoundly influenced by tribes 
of a different culture, probably those of the Cauca Valley. Aguado, our 
only source, states that they resembled the Patdngoro in those aspects of 
culture that he did not describe. At least two other tribes, the Panche 
and Muso (Muso), and the several subdivisions of the latter, may have 
resembled the Patdngoro in the same way as the Amani. Thus, the 
Patdngoro culture was the basic type, and the Amani, Panche, and Muso 
cultures represented special developments that were caused, at least in 
part, by outside influences. The culture of the Patdngoro, and, to a large 
extent, that of the other three tribes, presents a striking contrast to that 
of all other areas of western Colombia. 

All these tribes are said to have spoken similar languages of the Chib- 
chan family. 



Farming. — Maize was the most important food, but sweet manioc, 
auyama, beans, avocado pears, and guavas were also cultivated. In culti- 
vating only two fruit trees these tribes were unique in western Colombia, 
where many different fruit trees were grown. The Patdngoro were also 
exceptional in caring little for chili peppers, and it seems that they did 
not cultivate them, though the Amani did. 

Twice every year, in December and in August, men cleared new patches 
of forests felling the trees with stone axes and burning the underbrush 



and branches. A man's sisters (not his wives) sowed his fields, at least 
the maize and beans, using planting sticks. No piece of land was sown 
twice, for otherwise the weeds would kill the crops. 

The agricultural calendar was regulated by the movements of two con- 
stellations. A certain position of the Pleiades was interpreted as the con- 
stellation's having begun the planting season in Heaven, and men had to 
follow suit by cutting and burning trees. This first part of the task had 
to be finished before Castor and Pollux, sisters of the Pleiades, had reached 
the zenith at midnight, when they were thought to begin sowing, inviting 
the men's sisters to do the same. An alternative signal for the beginning of 
sowing was the arrival of certain migratory birds. During the second 
planting season, in August, every detail was guided by the blossoming and 
development of a certain tree. 

Domesticated animals. — The dog is not mentioned. Guans (paujies) 
and possibly other birds were taken from the nest and raised in the house. 

Hunting and fishing. — The forests inhabited by these tribes harbored 
almost no animals or birds. It is specifically stated that the only meat eaten 
by the Patdngoro was that of rats. The Marquesote also ate monkeys and 
certain birds. 

Fishing seems to have been important, at least in some parts of the area, 
but no data are available on methods used. 

Food preparation. — No bread was prepared, either of maize or of 
manioc. Maize was eaten in the form of tamales or a sour dough made of 
maize flour mixed with manioc flour and consumed diluted in water, i. e., 
a food similar to the South Mexican and Guatemalan pozole, except for 
the addition of manioc flour. The more well-to-do carried lumps of this 
dough wrapped in leaves when they went to work in the fields. 

The two daily meals, one in the morning and the other in the evening, 
consisted of auyama leaves, wild amaranth and other unspecified "greens," 
and a few handfuls of maize flour all boiled together in a pot. Sometimes 
a few auyamas were added as a special feature. This dish was taken with 
maize and manioc beer. The only other dish mentioned is the leaves of 
certain unnamed wild plants, broiled between bigger leaves. 

The larger part of the maize and manioc harvested was consumed in 
liquid state, as fermented drinks. 

The Marquesote dried food, e.g., fruit, small fish, birds, rats, and mon- 
keys, for preservation. 

Sa,lt was unknown. As a substitute salty water was drunk. It was 
brought from springs in sections of giant bamboo. Chili pepper was 
little or hardly ever used by the Patdngoro but was important among the 

The only tribe in the area that ate human flesh was the Amani. They 
boiled or barbecued it, or, as a specialty, toasted and ground it into pow- 
der, mixed it with chili pepper, and drank it in maize or manioc beer. 


Hands, feet, and bowels were considered special delicacies. Large stores 
of human flesh, prepared in any of these ways, were found in most of 
the Amani villages. 


Patdngoro villages were located in high places. In the villages of every 
tribe, there was a special building for ceremonies and festivals. Some 
Palenque villages had more than 50 houses, and those of the Amani had 
an average of 80 or 90, built close together along regular streets. The 
villages of the Patdngoro, who were simpler folk than the Amani or Pa- 
lenque, may have been smaller, and they are said not to have followed the 
same orderly plan. 

The most distinctive feature of Palenque and Amani villages was a pali- 
saded fortress ("palenque") of heavy logs, provided with loopholes. 

The method of house construction is not known, but building materials 
included bamboos (guadua), 7 feet (about 2 m.) long and as thick as a 
man's thigh, and bihao leaves. 

The only piece of furniture mentioned is the platform bed ("catre" or 


Men went completely naked, but if their bodies bore some ugly scar 
they covered it with a piece of skin. Young girls wore an apron of loose 
strings of agave or cotton thread reaching almost to the ankles. At mar- 
riage they changed it for a small apron of cotton cloth; they always sat 
down in such a way that the apron covered their private parts. 

Men cut their hair at a level between the ears and shoulders. For an 
act of bravery they were tonsured ( "coronado" ) , Women wore the front 
portion of their hair, from the ears forward, loose, while the rest was 
woven with lianas into two braids wound around the head. 

Heads were deformed in such a way that the forehead was broadened. 
No ear, nose, or lip ornaments or other kind of bodily decoration are 
mentioned. Ornaments consisted of feather crowns, white bea,ds, and 
some apparently rare gold jewelry. 


Liana bridges were used throughout the area. Canoes are not men- 
tioned, possibly through a mere oversight. 


Pottery was apparently made. Gold was not worked. For weapons, 
see Warfare below. 



Each village seems to have been autonomous. Among the Patdngoro 
and Amani the village headman •wa.s usually the oldest man with the 
largest family and the most outstanding personal qualities. Except dur- 
ing war the Patdngoro chief's authority was small. The Amani headman, 
who was elected by all the townspeople, had considerable authority. 

No exchange of goods whatever was carried on between villages or 


Marriage. — Among all tribes of the area, a man acquired a wife by 
giving a sister to the brother of his bride-to-be. A man, therefore, gen- 
erally had as many wives as he had sisters. In the case of several brothers 
and sisters, the oldest brother allotted the sisters to his brothers, so that 
they might exchange them for wives. A man who had no brothers but 
many sisters might distribute some of them among close clansmen who 
had no sisters. If a girl had no brothers and her mother were a widow, 
she disposed of her sisters, but if a girl without brothers had lost her 
mother, her mother's brother or nearest male relative made the marriage 

Most men had several wives, who often were sisters. In any case it was 
considered correct for a man to have intercourse with all the sisters of his 
wife or wives. The widow became the wife of the dead man's brother or 
closest relative, lest she be lost to his village and return to her own. 

Marriages were easily dissolved. The woman abandoned her husband 
whenever her brother or nearest clansman told her to. As a consequence, 
her brother also lost his wife, who, being the abandoned husband's sister, 
likewise returned to her own village. Both women would take their chil- 
dren with them. A husband could also discard his wife whenever he 
wished, but at the same time he sent for his sister who had married his 
brother-in-law. It is even said that at the death of one wife all others 
would go home unless her brother could fill her place with another of his 

A man's wives all lived together in one house without any jealousy or 
quarrels. The husband slept every night with a different one. When a 
wife's turn came, it was she who cooked for him; when he returned from 
the field or the warpath, she handed him a drink of maize beer, after which 
he went down to the river to bathe. Next, she covered his body with 
artistic designs. They then ate and retired. 

When a wife was visiting her mother, her husband was not allowed to 
have intercourse with her in the mother's house but called her with certain 
whistling sounds to join him in the fields. 

A son-in-law and mother-in-law were never permitted to look at each 
other and had to look away if they ever met by accident. In some villages 


there were special pathways and roads where sons-in-law could be sure 
of not encountering their mothers-in-law. 

A woman abstained from any intercourse during her menstruation and 
while she was pregnant or was nursing a child. 

Patrilocal residence was the rule. A widow with daughters but without 
sons would not permit her daughters' lovers to take the girls home to 
their villages, though she allowed them to have intercourse near, though 
not inside, her house. These lovers had to prepare her a maize field. 

Wives were expected to obey their husbands lest they be sent home for 
good. Among the Patdngoro, however, wives enjoyed great sexual 
liberty and were never restrained by their husbands, who always feared 
desertion. Amani wives had much less freedom. An adulterous wife 
was put into a dark room in the building where the wedding had taken 
place and kept there by special guards. Here, day after day, all men of 
the village who wished could have intercourse with her. If, after a speci- 
fied time, she survived this treatment, she was starved to death. No 
husband could save his adulterous wife from this fate. If he should 
attempt to do so, he would lose his public standing and even risk being 
killed by his own relatives. In any case he could not take another wife. 
The adulterous woman's lover was also killed. Instead of burial, the 
couple's bodies were left at some frequented place outside the village to 
be eaten by carrion birds, and a conspicuous mark was left there which 
would last a long time. Here, at short intervals, a man specially 
appointed for the task delivered a long sermon before a big crowd includ- 
ing even people from other towns. He explained the crime and the 
punishment commemorated at the place, dwelling on the shame brought 
on all of the delinquents' descendants, and admonished everyone to lead 
a clean and decent life, "something certainly never before heard of among 
savage peoples," adds our chronicler. 

Among the Amani an unmarried girl who gave herself to a man was 
condemned to perpetual celibacy and had to submit to the control of her 
parents or close relatives. The man was condemned to 6 months in the 
communal ceremonial building, during which he had to keep it clean and 
was not allowed to leave it for any reason. 

In all these tribes men sometimes exchanged wives. 

Among the Patdngoro the wedding celebration lasted 7 days. On the 
first day the bride-to-be painted her future husband black, red, and other 
colors. During the first 6 nights the couple slept together without having 
intercourse, which was impossible because many boys and girls joined 
them every night. On the seventh night both were led to the bed, he by 
an old man of his clan and she by her brother; maize grains were placed 
al the head of the bed, and the bridegroom and bride threw them at each 
other. Planting-sticks were placed on both sides of the bed and weapons 


hung up high to signify that the husband would provide his wife 
with food and shelter and defend his family. 

Among the Arnani 4 months had to pass between the preliminary 
agreement and the actual wedding. During this time the prospective 
bridegroom and bride investigated each other's qualities. If both were 
satisfied, the wedding took place in the public building with all the hus- 
band's clansmen participating in the celebration. The young couple lived 
for some time in this house, where a man had the special assignment of 
counseling the wife daily to be faithful to her husband, to serve him 
willingly, and to rear their offspring properly. The husband was told 
to treat his wife well and not to have intercourse with her when she was 
with child. 

Clans. — All tribes were divided into exogamous matrilineal clans. 
Because marriage was patrilocal, members of different clans were found 
together in the same villages. The rules of exogamy were strictly 
observed, but in the very rare cases when they were broken the guilty 
persons were killed with clubs and sticks, and it was believed that they 
would forever wander around without heads, suffering and doing 

Throughout life a man's relations with his sisters were closer or at any 
rate more permanent than those with his wives. It was a man's sister, 
not his wife, who constantly helped him in the field. The wife had only 
to prepare his meals, paint his body, and spend the night with him when- 
ever her turn came, but sometimes she helped in the fields. When a 
husband fell ill, especially for a long period, the wife returned with her 
children to her brother's village, and her brother's wife, the sick man's 
sister, returned to her village. 

In all these tribes certain men posed as women and lived with men. 
Their status seems to have been publicly accepted. 


These were warlike and cruel tribes. Local groups, although connected 
by marriage bonds, were at continuous war with one another. Prisoners, 
including small children, were killed immediately. In fact, few prisoners 
were taken, for foreigners were killed at once. Children, even though 
still nursing, were taken to the corpses and given a little stick with which 
to touch the dead man's wounds so that they might become brave warriors. 
When a group of Indians met a beautiful woman from another village, 
they first raped her and then killed her, considering this an insult to her 
relatives. All who took part in such an assault thenceforth wore their 
hair tonsured. 

Weapons used in this area were long bows and arrows, some of which 
were poisoned, clubs, and stone axes, but the use of axes in war may have 
been only incidental. Lances were noted only among the Palenque. 


The poisoned arrows bore finely incised lines and had a small notch 
about 3 inches from the tip, so that it broke off in the wound. The poison 
was prepared by old women, who were tired of living. The fumes of 
their poisonous concoction usually killed them. Into a big vessel they 
threw all the snakes they could find, many red ants, scorpions, spiders, 
and other poisonous animals. To this they adiled menstrual blood and, 
if they could be had, men's testicles. They kept a number of frogs for 
a few days in a vessel without food and then tied each by its legs to four 
stakes over a bowl and beat it with small sticks so that it exuded a poison 
which dripped into the bowl. They added this poison and the whitish 
juice of certain trees to the animals and other ingredients, which by now 
had putrified, and mixed the whole. Whenever this poison lost its 
strength, they added a little of the juice of the same trees and of manza- 
nillo, which, among neighboring tribes (none of which used frogs, except 
the far-distant Choc 6), was the basic ingredient of their arrow or dart 

Villages, and often individual houses, were protected by trenches 14 
feet (4 m.) deep, filled with pointed stakes, long and sharp enough to 
pierce a human body lengthwise. These trenches were carefully concealed 
with a covering of earth. Whether the stakes were poisoned is not clear. 
To lure the enemy, game was placed over these excavations ; sometimes 
the defenders were stationed behind them. 

The palenques or palisades, particularly those of the Amani, were 
extremely strong and were built in almost inaccessible places. At vulner- 
able places there were two palisades, the outer more than 20 feet (6 m.) 
high, the inner 7 feet (2 m.) high, with the intervening space filled in 
to the height of the latter, except for a trench 7 feet (2 m.) deep. The 
trench was filled with water, which was carried over extremely difficult 
mountain trails from considerable distances. In addition to the palisades 
the easier slopes leading up to the fortification were protected with sharply 
pointed stakes. 

One palenque, manned by 4,000 warriors and provisioned with ample 
supplies of human flesh preserved in different ways, had to be besieged 
by the Spaniards for 40 days before it was taken. The defenders not 
only showered the attacking enemy with innumerable arrows but also 
threw large stones, great quantities of water, and burning torches down 
upon them. A special feature of some palenques was heavy wooden 
trap doors. Heavy logs, placed close to forest trails, were arranged to 
fall on anyone who touched a trip-cord tied across the trail. 

Warriors wore crowns of feathers and painted their faces and bodies. 
Shouts, noises, and vituperations against the enemy were considered 
indispensable features of battle. One palenque had a special tower from 
which during the night a defender launched insult upon insult on the 
enemy outside. 


On one occasion a group of young warriors accompanied by women 
and children tried to enter a Spanish encampment under the pretext of 
delivering building materials. Each man carried a giant bamboo in which 
he had a swordlike club and had a stone ax fastened to a string around 
his waist. The women and children carried smaller clubs hidden under 
bundles of bihao leaves. 


There are no data on birth or puberty. In view of the fullness of data 
on other aspects of native life, this would seem to mean that these tribes 
had no puberty ceremonies. 

Death. — A corpse was prepared for burial by the deceased's sisters and 
other clanswomen. The big toes and the legs above the knees were tied 
together. The whole body was painted with the most artistic designs; 
in addition to colors used on other occasions the Indians employed white 
and yellow, which were restricted to corpses. The body was adorned 
with white beads and a great number of feathers, and it was wrapped 
in a mat. The deceased was bemoaned and praised for a long time, then 
carried to the grave. Before burial an elder member of his family pierced 
the body three times with an arrow on the lower lip, on the shoulders 
close to the neck, and on the thighs, then left the arrow stuck between 
his belly and the mat. This was done to assure him good treatment in 
the other world. 

The brief reference to burial — "they bury him in a grave and cover the 
body with earth" — does not seem to describe the deep-level graves typical 
of most western Colombian tribes. 


Major deities. — The Patangoro believed that a windlike being called 
Am lived in the skies, but, in keeping with their general lack of formalized 
religion, they did not worship him. Regarding the sun and moon and an- 
other deity called Chusman or Chanzan, two different opinions are said to 
have existed. According to one, the sun and moon were both deities, and 
only they and Am were in heaven. Chusman was a rather malignant deity 
who, though evidently not living in heaven, sent terrible frightening 
visions, diseases, famine, and thunder and lightning. According to those 
who did not worship the sun and moon, Chusman lived with Am in the 
skies, was well disposed toward mankind, and expressed his will through 
shamans; he was also lord of the nether world. 

The afterworld. — It was said that dead persons returning to visit 
their living relatives described the afterworld as a place of plenty and 
happiness. The Indians were so sure of its attractiveness that at different 
times, including the period of the Spanish Conquest, many of them 
hanged themselves so as to go there more quickly. Some believed that 


it lay in the east, on the banks of the Magdalena River ; others imagined 
it to be in the west. The part of a man which went to the afterworld was 
an airlike substance called tip, similar to man but intangible, which re- 
sides in the heart and leaves it upon death. 

Magic and shamanism. — If a boy of 5 or 6 had certain visions of 
human beings, birds, or other animals, he hurried to tell his mother his 
terrible experience. She would counsel him not to be afraid and to be pre- 
pared for further visions, for they meant that he had been chosen to be a 
shaman. To strengthen such a boy the mother would call other children 
to beat him with sticks at certain hours and on certain days. It is not 
stated how long such preparation lasted. At the end of it the boy was 
considered a full-fledged shaman. If, as only rarely happened, a long 
time elapsed during which no boy received the visions necessary to be- 
come a shaman, a close relative of a dead shaman was asked to be his 

The shaman cured wounds simply by washing them with warm water 
and putting his hand over them ; for head wounds the hair was parted 
and tied. In cases of wounds from poisoned weapons all the flesh afifected 
by the poison was cut away with a stone knife. For pains and diseases 
the aflfected part was rubbed, sucked, and blown. The shaman would 
draw blood from his gums and spit it out to demonstrate that the malady 
had been extracted. 

Among the Patangoro but not the Amani, if the patient died, his 
relatives killed the shaman. 

Shamans as well as ordinary people warded off rainstorms by blowing. 

Among the Amani, village "principales" and shamans would assemble 
in the ceremonial building and, seated on their stools, question one of the 
shamans regarding war, weather, cases of adultery, the number of children 
people would have, and the number of years they would live. The 
shaman answered from outside the house, through a special little window 
or loophole, or from a structure built near the ceiling. 


According to the Patangoro flood myth, everyone was drowned by the 
flood except one man, to whom Am gave a stick wrapped up in a mat, 
a hollow bamboo, and a vessel. From the stick he made himself a little 
hut to live in. When he awoke the first morning the bamboo had been 
changed into a woman, who took the vessel and went for water. After 
this Am returned to heaven, and a horrible snake appeared to the couple 
telling them not to answer Am's calls lest they too be transformed into 
snakes. They followed the snake's advice and as a result remained for- 
ever naked and in need of many things. The possible Christian elements 
may have been brought into the story by Rufo or Aguado ; its basic native 
features can, however, easily be discerned. 



The numeral system seems to have been decimal, for the Indians 
counted up to 10. Beyond 10, however, they called everything "much." 

The tribes of this area had developed a whole set of combined whistling 
sounds for long-distance communication. 

Antidotes agamst annual poison consisted, whenever possible, of certain 
parts of the animal in question and, only m cases when this could rot be 
had, of herbs and bark. All such remedies were taken internally 


By Alfred Metraux and Paul Kirch hoff^ 


Although Chlhcha (Muisca) culture is, in spite of its obviously Andean 
character, curiously isolated geographically, cultures of a more or less 
Andean or at least semi-Andean type continue toward the north and 
northeast of it for a considerable distance (map 6).^ At the time of the 
European Conquest they extended as far as the mountain ranges con- 
nected with, or easily accessible from, the Andean system. Exactly like 
these mountain ranges, the chain of Andean or semi-Andean cultures 
bifurcated at some distance northeast of the Muisca, one branch follow- 
ing the Venezuelan Andes or Sierra de Merida, the other following the 
Sierra de Peri j a to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. At an earlier 
period Andean cultural influence must have reached even farther to the 
northeast, for archeology reveals it especially around Lake Valencia and 
in the plains south of the Venezuelan Andes, and ethnology shows that 
scattered Andean elements occurred within the eastern portion of the 
Colombian-Venezuelan coast and even beyond in the Antilles, The 
Andean culture elements encountered in the region around Medellin (the 
old Province of Aburra) appear to be geographically isolated, although 
future archeological investigations in the area between Bogota and 
Medellin may bridge this gap, adding thus a third, northwestern, branch 
to the two already mentioned. 

Most of the tribes with this culture live in higher altitudes, but there 
are some tribes who have a large num.ber of Andean culture elements, 
in certain cases with a culture that is markedly Andean or at least semi- 
Andean in type, and who live in the foothills or even in the hot valleys 
and plains within or close to high mountains. 

Information regarding most of the tribes of this area is extremely 
scanty. Some tribes are included here not only because they occur within 
the general area but also because they have a few elements — often the 
only elements recorded — that are obviously Andean. Other tribes, such 

1 The material on the Chaki is by Metraux; the Introduction and the information on the other 
tribes are by Kirchhoff. 

* The tribes of this article appearing on map 6 are principally those appearing in the text. — 

65 3 3 34 — 48 24 



as the Lache, the tribes of the Timotean family, and the Arhuaco, for- 
tunately are better known, so that their inclusion in this area is beyond 
doubt. These and probably other tribes, such as the Corbago, have not 
only characteristically Andean traits but also a cultural level comparable 
to that of many less advanced Andean tribes in Ecuador and Peru. 
However, the inhabitants of the region around San Cristobal — the Zorca, 
Quenaga, Sunesua, and probably many others, and the Chake, as Jahn 
(1927, p. 80) calls the Highland tribes of the so-called Motilones group 
in contrast to the Mape or lowland Motilones — are characterized not only 
by considerably fewer Andean traits but also above all by a definitely 
lower cultural level. These peoples give the impression of having come 
under Andean influence only relatively recently, for they still retain much 
non-Andean culture. 

Although the basic culture of this area, as manifested by the Chake, is 
found also among a number of other tribes around and to the east of 
Lake Maracaibo (see p. 469) in the territory of the Mape, the Chake and 
Mape probably do not have a sufficient number of specific traits in com- 
mon to warrant their being grouped together as "Motilones." In the 16th 
century only the Mape were called "Motilones" (in Spanish, "those with 
cut hair"). Since the disappearance of the other tribes of this region 
the term "Motilones" has become practically the equivalent of "wild 
Indians," first to the white settlers and then to anthropologists. The 
name "Motilones," therefore, is not used in this article, except in the 
section on history. 

The Mape in no sense belong to this culture area, but at the coming 
of the Spaniards there existed a number of tribes in the region inhabited 
today, and very probably then also, by the Mape, whose culture, to judge 
by the scanty information at our disposal, was Andean or at least semi- 
Andean (the Tayatomo, Corbago, and Araucana). Geographically these 
tribes link the Chake and other tribes to the north of them with the more 
southern members of this culture area, forming a chain broken only by 
the Mape. 

The Arhuaco tribes of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, whose cul- 
ture is on the whole very markedly Andean (though resemblances with 
the culture of the Colombian- Venezuelan coast are not missing), are 
treated elsewhere (Handbook, vol. 2, p. 868). 

Some Andean elements have found their way to the Tairona and the 
Goajiro, who are respectively the northwestern and northeastern neigh- 
bors of the Arhuaco, but these tribes are strikingly different culturally 
from each other and both are markedly non-Andean. 

Enough Andean elements to give the local tribal cultures a distinctly 
Andean flavor are encountered in a curiously isolated region: the so- 
called Province of Aburra around Medellin in the upper Porce Valley 
(this volume, p. 326). Although the Porce and Cauca Valleys are con- 



Map 6.— The native trijared with data furnished by Paul KirchhofE 

(Face p. 350) 

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Map 6.-The native tribes of Venezuela and Lowland Colombia. Heavy lines segregated areas treated in Volumes 2 and 3. (Prepared with data furnished by Paul Kirchhofif 

and Gregorio Hernandez de Alba.) 

(Face p. 350) 


nected by an easy mountain pass, their cultures seem to have had little 
in common. The Andean elements found in or near Aburra seem, how- 
ever, to be attributable to an ethnic group different from, and probably 
exterminated by, the Indians encountered there by the Spaniards. 

The linguistic affiliation and even the language of most tribes in this 
area are unknown. The peoples of the Venezuelan Andes seem to have 
spoken related languages, this linguistic family being somewhat arbitrarily 
called Timote by Jahn (1927, p. 334). To judge by tribal and place 
names, the only linguistic data available, some of the tribes farther to the 
southwest possibly also belonged to this family, which to date must be 
considered as isolated. The Chake tribes, and probably some of their 
immediate neighbors to the south (Carate) and northwest {Coanao, Itoto, 
and Cariachil), belong to the Cariban family. Most Carib tribes living 
in this part of the continent form part of the neighboring culture areas 
(e. g., the Carare, Opon, Bubure-Pemeno, and Kirikire). The Arhuaco 
tribes belong to the Chibchan family. 

All the tribes treated in this chapter except the Chake disappeared 
long ago, although in the Venezuelan Andes they have left traces of their 
culture among the local Mestizos. Their culture is known almost ex- 
clusively through the accounts of the conquerors, as no missionaries 
worked among them. The most important sources are Oviedo y Valdes 
(1851-55), Castellanos (1874), Aguado (1916-17), and Simon 


The historical data referring to the Chake are not easily separated 
from those referring to the Mape, because these tribes have for some time 
past been lumped together as "Motilones." Between 1779 and 1792, both 
the "Chague" (i. e., Chake) and "Motilones" (i. e., Mape), in some cases 
together with the Sabril, Coyamo, and Aratomo (tribes that no more be- 
longed to this area than the Mape), were collected by the Capuchins of 
the Provinces of Navarra and Cantabria in small settlements in the region 
of Peri j a and along the Catatumbo and Escalante Rivers. A census taken 
in 1810 gives for these 10 missions a total of 1,190 Indians of the tribes 
named above. The first "Motilones" vocabulary, collected around 1738 
by Father Francisco de Cartarroya but now lost, may have been taken 
among either the Chake or the Mape. 

Relations between the Whites and Motilones (apparently both Chake 
and Mape) deteriorated completely after 1836, when the Indians were 
cruelly provoked. From then to the present many tribes have constantly 
maintained a hostile attitude and have attacked all who entered their 
territory or settled nearby. Several employees of the Caribbean Petroleum 
Co., which has many oil wells on the Venezuelan side of their territory, 
were killed by them. Since about 1915, however, relations between certain 

352 SOUTH AaiERICAN INDIANS [B.A.E. Bull. 143 

tribes and the Whites have improved. The Capuchin missionaries at La 
Granja, on the Colombian side of the Sierra de Perija, have established 
friendly relations with many villages, and, on the Venezuelan side, mem- 
bers of the Tucuco tribe (who are Chake) come to work on farms near 
Machiques. When Dr. and Mrs. Bolinder (1937) crossed the Sierra de 
Perija from west to east in 1936-37 they were amiably received by several 
tribes. The Yasa (a Mape tribe) remain intractable, however, and are 
feared by the other tribes of the region. 


The following six groups of tribes are provisionally included in this 
culture area, largely because of their geographical location and because of 
the similarity of tribal and place names. Their inclusion is based on 
cultural features only in the few cases where data permit. 

(1) The Lache on the slopes of the Nevado de Chita differ both 
linguistically and culturally from the following groups. 

(2) The Tequia (Cercada) to the northeast of the Lache are prac- 
tically unknown but were stated to differ both linguistically and culturally 
from their neighbors. 

(3) The Chitarera (Chitarero), including the Chindcota, lived in the 
region of Pamplona. The Cucuta and the inhabitants of the towns of 
Loma Verde (La Guazabara) and Zamia may all or in part have been 
merely subdivisions of the Chitarera, in the district around Cucuta. 

(4) A number of tribes to the northeast of the Chitarera are prac- 
tically unknown both linguistically and culturally, except for some cultural 
data on the Chinato, Zorca, Quenaga and Sunesiia. Among this group 
of tribes were: 

the Azua and Casahata; 

the Tdriba, Aborotd, Toituna, Gudsimo, Tonono, Sirgard, "Bar- 
hillos," Simaraca, Tucape, Tamoco, and Tirapara; the Chucuri 
and Cuite ; 

the Burgna, on the Burgua River ; 

the Chinato and Lohatera, in the mountains northeast of San Cris- 
tobal, and along the Zulia River : 

the Capacho (Capncho) , between the latter and the Chitarera; 

the Tdchira, Tote, and Toco, on the Tachira River ; 

the Tororo (Auyamas) , in the lower Torbes Valley ; 

the Mocoipo, Guaramito, Peribeca, and Carapo; 

the Oriquena and Cacunubeca, in the upper Torbes Valley ; 

the Umuquena, on the Umuquena River; 

the Venegara, Bocaquea, Babiriquena, Tucapuya, Nebica, Buriquero, 
Mancueta, Buriimaquena, Huria, and "Piaches," in the Uribante 
Basin ; 


the Seburuco, around Seburuco; 

the Zorca, in the Santiago (today San Cristobal) Valley; 

the Quenaga and Sunesua, in the Espiritu Santo Valley, near Sar 
Cristobal ; 

the Susaca, in the Corpus Cristi Valley, near San Cristobal ; 

the Burba and the inhabitants of the town called Arcabuco (Corrales) 

the Humugria and Cariqiiena, in La Grita Valley ; 

the Queneniari (Quinimari) ; 

the Guaraque, around Guaraque ; and 

the Cabaria and Mesoy. 
(5) A number of tribes grouped together linguistically by Jahn a,-- 
Timote : 

the "Bailadores" and Mucuti (Mocoti), on the Mucuties River: 

the "Estanques," Carigri, and Iricuye, on the Chama River from 
Estanques to the beginning of the plains (the Giiaruri, said to be 
linguistic relatives of the last three tribes, are not likely to have 
belonged to this culture area, since they lived at the mouth of the 
Chama River) ; 

the Chi guard, on the slopes north of Lagunillas ; ethnogra.phically un- 
known but important because of being mentioned in the traditions 
of the ruling family of the Caquetio of Coro, who claimed to have 
come from this region; 

the Jaji, Capds {Capds), Tucani, Escaguey, and Torondoy, on tht 
wooded slopes watered by the Capaz, Tucani, and Torondoy Rivers 
(the Torondoy, at least those who used blowguns as did the Pcmeu, 
on the southern shore of Lake Maracaibo, probably did not belont^ 
to this culture area) ; the Torondoy, like the Chiguard, are men 
tioned in the traditions of a Caquetio group, far to the northeast, in 
this case those of Yaracuay; 

the Quinaro, including the Jamti (Jamuene), Orcase, and Case, 
around Lagunillas and on the Mesas de Caparu ; in the same neigh- 
borhood probably the Quirord; 

the Isnunibi, around Pueblo Nuevo ; 

the Miguri (Barbados), including the Tiguino, MucunS, Camucuay, 
and Mocochopo, around Acequias ; to the south of them the 

the Mirripu, including the Mucujebe (Mucujepe), Mucumbi, and 
Mucuguay (Mocobay), on the Nuestra Seiiora River; in the same 
neighborhood probably the Mocoabd; 

the Tucuo, in the Quebrada de Gonzalez ; in the same neighborhood 
the Guaiinaro ; 

the Guaque, around Ejido and in the Pedregosa Valley ; in the same 
neighborhood the Curo; 

the Tatui, around Merida ; 


the Tabay (Tapay), around Tapay; in the same neighborhood the 
Cacute ', these two tribes may have been either the last of the lower 
altitude tribes or the first of the higher altitude tribes. 

the Caragud, Mucuchay, Mucutubiri, Caparo, Aricagua, Michay, 
Ticoporo, and Curvati (Curbati), on the southern slopes, from 
Canagua in the upper Mucuchachi Basin to the upper Curvati 
River; neighboring on them the Tiruaca, Moquino (Qino), and 
Judigua (Judigiie) ; 

the Mucujun, including the Mocanarey and Mocaqueta, on the 
Mucujun or Alisares River; the Mucurubd, around Mucuruba; 
in the same neighborhood probably the Mucumano ; and the 
Mucuchi, including the Mocao, Misteque, Misintd, Mosnachoa, 
Musiquea (Misiquea) and Mucuchache, around Mucuchies; i. e., 
all these tribes on the upper Chama River ; 

the Mucubaji (Carboneros) , on the upper Santo Domingo River; 
the Aracay, on the Aracay River ; and the Pagiley (Pabuey) and 
Pescahuey, on the upper Pagiiey River ; the Barinao, on the middle 
Santo Domingo River may also have belonged to this culture area, 
although around Barinas tribes of other culture areas are men- 
tioned, e. g., the Jirajara and the Achagua (see pp. 469 and 399) ; 

the Tosto, including the Tost 6, Estiteque, Guandd, Misquichd, and 
Niquitao, on the upper Bocono and its tributary, the Burate or 
Oburate ; to the southwest of them, on the Tucupido, the Tucupi; 

the Timote, including the Timote (and their subdivision, the Esnu- 
jaque), Miquimboy, Jajo, Quindord, Chachopo, Mocotapo, and 
Mucujurape, on the upper Motatan ; 

the Tirandd, including the Tirandd, Chachu, Estigiiati, Curandd, 
Bombd, Bujay, Tonojo, and Misisi, on the Jimenez, Castan, and 
middle Motatan Rivers; 

the Escuque, including the Escuque, Isnotu, Betijoque, Quibao, Poco, 
and Mosquey, on the Poco River, and around Escuque, Betijoque, 
and Isnotu ; the Coromoclio, either to the north of them, or possibly 
identical with one or several of these tribes ; 

the Cuica, including the Moitay, Siquisaye, Burbusay, Cabimbti, 
Chejende, Carache, and Cuica, around Monay, Burbusay, Carache, 
and Cuicas ; and 

the Umucaro (Humucaro, Umacaro), on the upper Tocuyo. 
(6) A number of tribes in the northern part of the Cordillera Oriental 
and its northern continuation, the Sierra de Peri j a, the majority of them 
belonging to the Cariban family : 

the Carafe, around Ocana ; 

the Tayatomo, not precisely located ; 

the Corbago, in the Sierra de Mene, situated probably farther to the 
south than the mountain range of that name shown on modem 


the Xiriguand, on the slopes down to the Magdalena River ; 

the Araucana, to the northeast of the Corbago; 

the Chake group of tribes, including, from north to south, the Aguas 
Blancas, Cunagiiasata, Tucuco, Sicacao, Pariri, Chake, Yasa, 
Macoita, and Macoa, on the eastern side of the Serrania de los 
Motilones, and the Socomha, Casacard, Milagru, Togaima, and 
Tolima, on the western side of the Serrania de los Motilones ; 

the Coanao (Guanao), Itoto, and Cariachil, in the western foothills 
of the Serrania de Valledupar and on the upper Cesar ; 

the "Coronndos," possibly identical with the "Coronados," i. e., the 
Burede, a subdivision of the Bubure (who do not belong to this 
culture area, but were neighbors of the Arhuaco, who are the 
northwesternmost tribes with an Andean culture, Handbook, vol. 
2, p. 868). 
Grubb (1927, p. 58) calculates the total number of the modern Moti- 
lones at about 5,000. 


Many Chake are diminutive in stature, and they appear almost pygmoid, 
to judge by Bolinder's photographs (1937, p. 56). According to De 
Booy's measurements, Macoa men average 5 feet 1 inch (1.55 m.) in 
height ; women, 4 feet 8 inches ( 1 .42 m. ) . 



Farming. — -This area has two groups of cultivated plants: those 
characteristic of the surrounding low country or Tropical Forest and 
those of the higher altitudes of the Andes. Only the first group, which in- 
cludes sweet manioc, sweetpotatoes, yams, maize, beans, auyama or uyame 
{Curciibita pepo), gourds, malanga (Xanthosoma sagittijolium) , algar- 
roba, papaya, pineapple, tobacco, urucu, and cotton, was known to such 
tribes as the Zorca and Chake. The tribes of the Timotean family grow 
these and fruit trees, such as the avocado, guava, guaimaro, star-apple, 
spondias, pejivalle palm, and pitahaya. Plants of the second group include 
Ullucus tuberosus, Oxalis tuberosa, Solanmn tuberosum, ocumo, churi, 
celery, aniana, icoraota, and zapayo.^ The only surviving Indians of this 
area, the Chake, also cultivate plantains, a few bananas, and some sugar- 
cane, but their staples are manioc and maize. 

Farming techniques show the same contrast, although the dividing line 
is not so much that of altitude as of cultural level. The Chake have a 
semimigratory type of cultivation; they open large clearings along the 
wooded mountain slopes, today using axes traded or stolen from the 

• See Handbook, vol. 2, p. S, for list of Andean cultivated plants. 


Whites. The Timotean tribes had permanent fields, often terraced, and 
for irrigation they employed either storage tanks or ditches. The tribe 
called "Los Estanques" had a tank or reservoir next to every house. The 
Miguri tribes in the valley called "Acequias" ("irrigation canals") and 
the Coronudo, to the northwest of the Chake, had ditches. The Timotean 
tribes cut irrigation ditches through hills and rocks and conducted the 
water onto terraces (catafos) that were 2 to 3 rods wide and had re- 
taining stone walls. These may still be seen. It is not clear whether 
these terraces were made only for irrigation or whether they were in- 
tended also to check soil erosion. 

It would be expected that this higher Andean type of farming was in 
the hands of men, but our sources are silent on this point. Among the 
Chake men clear the field and plant; the women harvest. Among the 
Lache the women did the work in the fields. 

The Chitarera stored maize in underground bins ("silos"), which in 
one village were so conspicuous that it was called the "Pueblo de los 

Hunting and fishing. — The Chake are good hunters. They shoot 
game and birds from small blinds built on the ground or in trees. In 
certain localities fishing is particularly rewarding. The Indians shoot 
fish with bow and arrows, drug them, or seize them by hand in small 
ponds made by damming rivers. 

Food preparation. — In the Venezuelan Andes the beans of the wild 
cacao tree were ground on a grinding stone and made into a drink called 
chorote. Chorote is made today. The "butter" which formed on the 
top of cooled chocolate was, together with the beans, the most prized 
religious offering. 

The Chake usually roast meat on the babracot. These tribes eat maize 
on the cob or grind it on a slab with a stone mano (pi. 67, top), wrap 
the meal in leaves, and cook it. They pound manioc, mix it with water, 
and heat it in a calabash placed among hot stones until it coagulates. 

Maize was used by the Timotean tribes to prepare an unfermented 
drink (mazato or masato) and a fermented drink (chicha). Only the 
latter is mentioned among the Chake. (See p. 366; pi. 62, top, left.) 

The tribes of the Venezuelan Andes had to import their salt from the 
lowlands near Aricagua. The Chake have no salt and shun condiments; 
today they use only a mixture of ashes and lemon juice. The Coanao 
produced and traded salt. 

The Indians living at Lake Jurao in the Venezuelan Andes cut through 
two layers of deposits in the lake bottom to obtain chunks of sodium 
carbonate (jurao). They used it as a salt substitute on food, they mixed 
it with coca ( ?) in place of lime, and they made it into a paste which they 
licked. They traded it to distant tribes, including the peoples of Lake 
Maracaibo, the Tocuyo region, and the Venezuelan llanos. 


Captive and domesticated animals. — In enclosures close to their 
houses the Jamu kept paugies( ?), guans, turkeys, turtle doves, and several 
other kinds of birds. (See Macoa, pi. 64, bottom, right,) The Chakk. 
have no dogs today, and our sources do not mention dogs among other 
tribes except the Ahurrd, who had mute dogs. 


The distinction between the two types of culture within this area — 
both in cultural level and in the number of Andean traits (pp. 349-351) — 
is seen clearly in the dwellings. Large towns are mentioned among the 
Lache, the Timotean tribes, and the Corhago. The Lache town of Cocuy 
consisted of some 800 stone-wall houses. The valleys and slopes of the 
Venezuelan Andes were covered with a great number of settlements, and 
the Spaniards were astounded by the size of buildings and towns — one 
source says there were "as many houses as in Rome" — and by their 
orderly appearance, always with a temple in the center of town. There 
were few Corhago towns, but each was large, the principal settlement 
having about 800 houses. The Jamu settlements at Lagunillas were 
divided into quarters and were embellished by ornamental trees, in addi- 
tion to the groves of fruit trees, and by enclosures full of birds. At 
Estanques a water tank was found next to every house. 

The modern house has a circular ground plan and a wall of stones 
joined with clay, which, however, is of no structural importance as the 
roof rests directly upon a wooden framework. 

Chitarera, Zorca, and Chake settlements (pi. 61, top), and probably 
those of the majority of the remaining tribes, are villages rather than 
towns. The size of only one Chitarera settlement is known ; it had 20 
houses. Subterranean storage rooms for maize were a conspicuous fea- 
ture of the Chitarera village called "Pueblo de los Silos." Zorca villages 
were composed of 8 to 10 or at most 20 houses, the walls of which were 
formed of vertical sticks with the interstices filled in with straw and 
Speletia leaves. The Chake villages visited by Bolinder (1925) con- 
sisted of very rudimentary structures : either simple lean-tos, supported 
by a transverse bar resting on two vertical posts, or huts formed by double 
lean-tos with both ends closed and a small porch along the front. These 
huts were flimsy and gave little protection against cold and rain. The 
floor was covered with ferns and small mats on which the Indians slept. 

The Chake lack hammocks and wooden benches. The absence of ham- 
mocks, nowhere mentioned, seems to be one of the negative characteristics 
of this area. 

The houses of Tequia chiefs were, like those of the Muisca chiefs, 
surrounded by palisades, for which reason they were called "Los 
Cercados." The houses of the Timotean Indians called Los Valientes 
were provided with loopholes. 


Causeways, which are such a conspicuous feature in the archeology of 
the plains south of the Venezuelan Andes, have also been reported from 
Los Valientes. Causeways built of slabs and described as similar to those 
of the Muisca and "wider than in Cuzco" were found by the Spaniards 
in the Province of Aburra. At intervals of about 2 leagues, they had 
wayside shelters filled with provisions and surrounded by fields. Although 
these causeways seem to have been in use at the time of the Conquest, 
being routes of trade with tribes farther east, they were evidently not 
built by the Indians encountered here by the Spaniards but by an earlier 
people, who had also left behind many ruined cities, apparently of stone. 
According to local tradition, these cities were destroyed by the Nutabe, 
a people of Colombian-Venezuelan coast culture, and by the inhabitants 
of the otherwise unknown "Province of Urezo." 


Despite frequent lack of details there is no doubt that dress in most 
of this area was distinctly Andean, being characterized by garments, 
usually of cotton cloth, that covered more than the sexual organs and in 
some cases included a covering for the head, also of cotton. 

Lache dress is unknown, but warriors of this tribe are said to have 
fought "naked." The Chitarera wore "cotton blankets." From the Zorca 
to about where the boundary between the Venezuelan States of Merida and 
Trujillo crosses the Venezuelan Andes, women wore a tunic, described 
as a long, tight, sacklike garment, or they simply wrapped a blanket 
around the body and tied it over one shoulder. The blanket was gathered 
around the waist with a belt in such a way that the upper part hung 
over loosely and could be used to carry all kinds of objects. Both tunics 
and blankets were woven of agave fiber in the western portion of this 
region but were of cotton in the eastern. In contrast to women, men went 
naked, with the prepuce tied to a string worn around the waist. Among 
the Quenaga and Sunestia, however, men wore tunics of agave fiber, 
apparently identical with those worn by the women, except that they were 
provided with shoulder straps. Among some of the tribes in the valleys 
east of Merida, as far as the Timote, the men wore cotton tunics extend- 
ing below the knees; in others, however, men perhaps went completely 
naked. Women in this region wore a big cotton blanket gathered at the 
waist with a belt and held together over the left shoulder with a wooden 
or golden pin, which often had a hollow head containing one or several 
tiny pebbles. Their arms and legs remained bare. Until the beginning 
of this century, Miicuchi women wore a dress composed of two such 
blankets, one white, the other with colored stripes ; they wore one over 
the other and fastened the upper one with a pin. An Andean type dress, 
described as a baglike garment which was painted, as among the Muisca, 
with leaf and curvilinear motifs, occurred eastward to Guanare River, 


in the foothills of the Venezuelan Andes, i. e., probably among the Tucupi. 
Among the Cuica, who are the northeasternmost Timoteans, the dress of 
both sexes was non-Andean, being identical with that of some of their 
neighbors of the adjoining culture area. Men went naked except for a 
gourd penis cover, while women wore only a multicolored cotton apron 
("bayo") not wider than a hand. Here cotton blankets are mentioned 
only as religious offerings. The inhabitants of the town called "Las 
Tapas" (probably Tucani) made tight capes of interwoven palm leaves 
that covered a man from head to foot. These capes are seemingly an 
isolated occurrence. 

Following the other branch of this Northern Extension of Andean 
culture, we find again that a number of tribes characteristically have 
complete and Andean type dress. Tayatomo women wore one-piece tunics 
that reached to the ground and were provided with cowls. Among the 
Corhago and Xiriguand both sexes wore painted blankets. In an unnamed 
tribe nearby cotton tunics painted with curvilinear and leaf motifs are 
mentioned. A Chake man wears a long cotton tunic decorated with 
brown stripes or ribbons, and on his head a cotton cap, a wide woven 
head band which the wealthy decorate with seeds (among the Macoa the 
extremities fall down the back), or a straw hat with a conical crown 
trimmed with bunches of feathers (pi. 63, bottom; pi. 64). Women use 
a small cotton loincloth, and in cold weather they throw a cotton mantle 
over their shoulders and tie it under the chin. Children and even young 
unmarried girls go very scantily dressed or else completely naked (pi. 
65, top). Babies wear a long shirt which may be used to carry the child 
on the mother's back. The Coanao wore cotton blankets. 

For the inhabitants of the Province of Aburra we have conflicting 
reports, which may refer to two different ethnic groups, one of which 
may be either an ethnic remnant of the builders of the causeways found 
in this region or else people who inherited their culture. One authority 
speaks of breachclouts, 1J4 yards long by 1 yard wide. The breachclout 
is characteristic of the Cauca Valley tribes across the mountains. Robledo 
(1864), on the contrary, states that the men went naked, with the prepuce 
tied to a hank of red or white thread wound around the waist. This 
custom, though not typically Andean, is found also among tribes which 
belong both culturally and geographically in the Andean area. (See 

The most frequent and usually the only personal adornment are neck- 
laces of colored seeds (the Chake use seeds of Abrus precatorius and 
Coix lacryma-jobi), jaguar and other animal teeth, tufts of small feathers, 
and, especially characteristic of this area, carved bone beads. In addition, 
the Timoteans use white and green stone beads (Jamu) and very thin 
shell disks (chaquiras). Whereas these tribes usually employed but one 
material at a time, such as stone, shell, or bone (e. g., the Jamu), the 


Chake seem to prefer a combination of several materials in one string, 
which they wear tightly (men) or loosely (women) around the neck, 
or over both shoulders and under the opposite arm. 

Mucubuy men wore many gourds tied to their waist, apparently as 
part of their war make-up. 

Breastplates of bone were worn by the Jamu. Very thin stone breast- 
plates representing a highly stylized bird, possibly an eagle with out- 
stretched wings, are frequently found archeologically in the Venezuelan 
Andes. Breastplates have not been reported among the Chake, but the 
Coanao to their northwest wore eagle-shaped gold plates. 

Deformatory ornaments are only mentioned twice: bone nose orna- 
ments in the Venezuelan Andes and golden earrings among the Coanao. 
Their rarity may be one of the negative characteristics of this area. 

Whereas bone is the most characteristic material used for personal 
adornment in this area, gold (probably guanin) seems to have been but 
rarely employed, the only two known occurrences being in the Vene- 
zuelan Andes and among the Coanao. It is probable, though not certain, 
that the Timotean tribes did not manufacture the few golden objects 
they used. The Coanao are definitely known to have acquired theirs 
in exchange for salt, probably through some neighboring tribe, from 
the Tairona or the Pacahucy, both belonging to the Colombian- Venezuelan 
coastal culture area. 

Red and black are the most common colors used for face and body 
painting. The Mucubuy painted their faces and bodies black all over, 
for which reason the Spaniards called them "Carboneros." The Macoa 
paint their faces with intricate designs of stripes and dots in black, brown, 
and scarlet (pis. 67, 68, 70, for example). The Colombian Chake use 

From the region of the Zorca to about Merida, the hair was worn 
long. The Zorca wound it around the head, which was covered with 
certain broad leaves. From Merida eastward the hair was cut at ear 
level. The Timote wore little pigtails close to the ears. Feather head- 
dress has been reported only in this region. Among the Macao both 
sexes cut their hair short. 

The Miguri tribes, who seem to represent one of the highest cultural 
levels within the Timotean family, wore beards and were consequently 
often called "Los Barbados." The "Barbillos," to judge by their Spanish 
nickname, may have done the same. A man with a painted mustache 
and beard was observed among the Macao. 


No means of transportation is mentioned except the carrying ^baskets 
of the Chake (pi. 63, top; pi. 64, bottom, left). Babies were carried on 
the back, in special slings (Venezuelan Andes) or by means of the long 


shirt the child wears (Chake). To cross gorges the tarabita (a rope 
bridge) is used today in the Venezuelan Andes and may be pre-Columbian. 
Articles of trade were salt (Venezuelan Andes and Coanao) and jurao 
(Venezuelan Andes). Balls of cotton thread and strings of tiny shell 
disks were used as media of exchange in the Venezuelan Andes. 


Division of labor. — Little is known about this subject. Among the 
Lache the women worked in the fields. Among the Chake men build 
the huts, do basketry work, knit bags, clear the forest, plant and sow, 
and make their weapons and clay pipes, while women spin, weave, and 
make pots. 

Textiles. — The Chake spin cotton threads with a drop spindle (pi. 67, 
bottom) ; the thread passes through a ring hanging from the roof. Agave 
fibers are made into strings by rolling them on the thigh. 

These Indians make looped or netted bags identical to those of their 
Arhuaco neighbors, from whom they probably borrowed the technique 
and the ornamental motifs. Among the Chake, bags are knitted by men, 
not by women. To loop the cotton threads they use wooden needles with- 
out a hole. 

Cotton fabrics (tunics, loincloths, bands) are woven on the vertical 
loom (pi. 64, top, right; pi. 68, top). 

Basketry. — The Chake are good basketmakers. Their carrying bags, 
satchels, telescope boxes, quivers, and fire fans are produced in the same 
twilled and hexagonal weaves as in the Guianas, but the specimens col- 
lected by Bolinder are plainer than those of the more eastern Cariban 
tribes. In our area the strands are not stained, but decorative effects 
are achieved by alternating strips with the rough side out and the smooth 
side out. 

Ceramics. — To judge by the rich archeological ceramics in the Vene- 
zuelan Andes, this area must have had good potters. Our sources 
only rarely mention that the tribes of the Timotean family made vessels 
and other objects of clay, among them censers and idols. The tribes 
with comparatively few Andean traits and with a low cultural level 
(p. 350) used gourds and calabashes to a far greater extent than clay 
pots. The Chitarera even received their name from their extensive 
use of calabashes as receptacles. The clay vessels of these tribes are 
described as course or crude. Those of the Quettaga and Simesua were 
about three fingers thick at the rim and were used only for cooking. 
All Chake pots characteristically have a pointed bottom and four ears. 
They are unpainted but sometimes are decorated with finger impressions. 

Weapons. — ^The tribes of this area fall into two groups according to 
whether the bow is absent or is the main or only weapon, though a 
number of tribes are intermediate. The two groups seem to coincide 
more or less with the two types of cultures found here. 


The bow was absent among the Tequia and the Aburrd, both of whom 
used spear throwers, and, judged by somewhat inconclusive evidence, 
some Timotean tribes lacked it. For warfare, tribes without bows used 
clubs (the tribes around Merida), clubs and slings (the Coromocho), 
or lances, spears, and clubs (the Cuica). The remaining tribes of this 
area, including some of the Timotean family, used the bow. The bow 
occurred mainly among the marginal southwestern peoples, who possibly 
belonged to another culture (the so-called Valientes, the MucucJtachi, the 
Aricagua, and the so-called Bailadores) . The Choke seem to use only 
the bow (pi. 70, top, right and bottom, left), but the other tribes ap- 
parently, always preferred clubs, slings, spears, or lances. Among 
the Lache at one extreme of this area and the Itoto and Cariachil at 
the other, bows are not mentioned, but it is not certain that they were 
lacking. Itoto and Cariachil warriors are described as carrying long 

Blowguns occurred only among the marginal Torondoy who, though 
linguistically members of the Timote family, may not have belonged to 
this area culturally. 

Shields were used from about Cucuta in the south to the Itoto and 
Cariachil in the north, being apparently absent among the Timotean 
tribes and the Chake. 

These weapons are rarely described. Clubs, always called "macanas" 
and often described as long, seem to have been of the cutting variety 
(sword-clubs). Those of the Lache were provided with a "bannerlike" 
adornment made of the feathers of guacamayas, parrots, etc., or of fine 
straw. In the Venezuelan Andes, where the use of wrist guards has 
been reported, bows are said to have been long, while those of the Cor- 
bago were so small that they were carried in the quiver, together with 
the arrows. Chake bows are of palm wood, with an elliptic or lozenge- 
shaped cross section and a length of 1.2 to 1.5 m. (4 to 5 feet). Macoa 
bows average 1.92 m. (6 feet 4 inches) in length. The Chake, like the 
tribes of the Colombian- Venezuelan coast, frequently use their bow staves 
as clubs and can inflict heavy wounds with the sharp edges. The bow- 
string is of vegetable fibers. 

Only the Chinato are said to have used arrow poison, a characteristic 
of the Colombian- Venezuelan coast. Chake arrows lack feathering. Ar- 
rows have reed shafts into which are fitted points of various types, the 
most common now being a wooden foreshaft tipped with an iron blade 
(pi. 71, top, left). The bindings form various designs named after 
animals or designs like those on serpents. Hunting and fishing arrows 
are tipped with a barbed wooden rod, with two wooden rods, or with 
a wooden rod and four points diverging from its base. Harpoon arrows 
are also used for hunting game. Arrows are kept in a quiver, which 
the Chake make of basketry. 


Shields used by warriors were, to judge by the terms used by our 
sources (adarga and paves), oval or oblong, and large enough to cover 
almost the whole body. The Corhago made them either of deerskin or 
of bark. Offensive weapons were bows, clubs, spears, and lances. 


Political fragmentation seems to have been characteristic of this area; 
tribal organization and chiefs were unknown. Among the Lache there 
were fist fights between certain subdivisions ("parcialidades"), probably 
of a local character. These were usually accompanied by many casualties. 

Little is known of the nature of chieftainship, which probably differed 
considerably in the two types of tribes. In some tribes the chief evidently 
ruled over a whole valley, while in others he was simply the village head- 
man. Thus in the region just west of Merida in the Venezuelan Andes 
chiefs were called cepo and apparently wielded considerable authority, 
while among the Zorca the local headman was usually the man with the 
biggest family and the largest fields. He had little authority and did not 
intervene in disputes among his people, a thief being punished, often 
killed, by his victim. 

There is no evidence of social stratification, even among the more 
advanced tribes, except that one reference states that war leaders were 
selected from the local noblemen ("principalejos") in the Venezuelan 


Marriage. — Among the Zorca, parents betrothed their children at birth. 
The children grew up and slept together in the house of the girl's parents, 
having their first intercourse at the time of the girl's first menstruation. 
A house was built for the new couple and the wedding celebrated with 
drinking, singing, and dancing. 

A wife apprehended in adultery remained with her husband and was 
not punished, provided her brothers or nearest kin killed her lover. 
Otherwise she was sent home to her parents or brothers, her offense 
being considered a great disgrace. 

Among the Chake, monogamy seems to prevail. Important Macoa men 
may have two wives (pi. 61, bottom), but the second has a far lower 
status and is regarded as a servant. Child betrothal is said to be common, 
but marriage takes place only after puberty. 

Among the Zorca, parents are said to have been so domineered over 
by their children that the latter had the right to punish them. 

Homosexual relations. — The Lache, in contrast to all the other tribes 
of this area and almost certainly through the influence of their neighbors 
and friends, the Arawakan Caquetio, publicly recognized male homo- 
sexuals, whom they married and buried as if they were women. Women 
who bore five male children consecutively were permitted to rear one as 
a woman. 



The majority of the tribes of this area seem to have been warlike, 
chough some were more so than others. In the 16th century all the 
Indians encountered by the Spaniards attacked in orderly formation, with 
inuch shouting and noise (which caused the valley inhabited by the 
Humugria and Cariquena to be named "La Grita"). To annoy and 
provoke the enemy, warriors in the Venezuelan Andes danced around 
with wild movements and made faces; hence came Spanish names such 
as "Los Locos" and "Los Bailadores." Near Cucuta (Loma Verde) we 
hear of warriors drinking chicha before going into battle, just as in the 
Colombian- Venezuelan coastal culture. In the tribe called "Los Baila- 
dores" the warriors carried into battle heavy ropes wound around their 
waists. These were used to tie prisoners. 

Pointed stakes hidden in tall grass were used in an unnamed village 
near Cucuta. Fortifications of palisades and moats with drawbridges 
seem to have been adopted in the Venezuelan Andes during the wars 
against the Spaniards, when some tribes lived exclusively in fortified 
settlements. These were located in inaccessible places from which the in- 
habitants rolled big boulders down upon the attacking Spaniards. 
Whether any of these military techniques were known in pre- Colombian 
days is uncertain. 


Childbirth. — Chake women give birth in the forest without assistance. 
The baby is bathed, after which girls and women of all ages perform a 
dance during a feast. Only two men assist, one holding panpipes in one 
hand and weapons in the other. After the dance, which is extremely 
slow, the men shoot their arrows to the ground in front of them. 

Puberty. — At the appearance of her first menses a Chake girl runs 
away but is pursued and caught by an old woman who shuts her in a small 
cabin, like those used by hunters, where she remains for 10 days. She 
must turn her back to the opening, through which food is given to her, 
and she receives a drug which is supposed to stop the flow of blood. 

Burial customs. — The Zorca placed their dead horizontally in grave? 
just big enough to accommodate the body. A deceased widower (or 
widow) was not allowed to wash himself nor touch any food with his 
hands for 10 months. Other people had to feed him; if he were alone 
he had to lift the food to his mouth with his wrists. 

In the Venezuelan Andes, to judge by archeological finds, the body was 
placed in a stone tomb (called to this day "mintoy," i. e., "cave"), closed 
with a stone slab. To prevent the corpse from touching the walls or roof 
it was either sealed (on a stool?) or placed squatting on its heels. Some- 
times the dead were buried in natural caves. Maize, "roots" (probably 
manioc), chicha, clay figures, and weapons (for men) or a grinding stone 

Plate 61. — "Motilones" (Macoa, i. e., Chake) village life. Top: Village sicnr. 
(Courtesy, University Museum, Philadelphia.) Bottom: Family group. 
(After De Booy, 1918 b.) 

Plate 62.— "Motilones" Indians. Top {left): Making cliicha. Top {nght): 
Group at Maraca. Boitom {left): Woman, Department of Magdalena, Colombia. 
(Courtesy Batista Venturello.) Center: Chicha trough (hollowed log) of the 
Perija. 'Bottom (right): Temporary camp on Rio Negro at foot of Penja 
range. (Courtesy American Museum of Natural History.) 





Plate 63. — "Motilones" (Macoa, i. e., Chake) carrying devices. To]): riinii)- 
line carrying l:)asket and gourd. Bottom: On the trail, wearing tunics, straw- 
hat, and carrying packs. (Courtesy University Museum, Philadelphia.) 

Plate 64.— "Motilones" (Macoa, i. e., Chake) Indians. Tov {left): Man 
playing an ax-flute. Top {right}: Weaving. (After De Booy, 1918 b.) Bot- 
tom {left): Tumpline basket. Bottom (right): Man with parrot. (Courtesy 
University Museum, Philadelphia.) 


Plate Go. — "Motilones" costumes. Top: Women and children, Cuhnnbia. 
(Courtesy Batista Venturello.) Bottom {left): Men from Rio Yasa. Garment 
of native-grown cotton. Bottom {right): Perija Mestizo man with haircut 
and costume typical of Sierra de Perija country, Venezuela. (Courtesy 
American Museum of Natural History.) 

Plate 66. — "Motilones" weaving. Top: Cotton cloth on a vertical loom. 
(Courtesy University Museum, Philadelphia.) Bottom: Twining a reed mat. 
(After De Booy, 1918 b.) 


Plate 67.— "Motilones" (Macoa, i. e., Chake) crafts. Top: Grinding meal 
for chicha. (After De Booy, 1918 b.) Bottom: Spinning cotton. (Courtesy 
University Museum, Philadelphia.) 

I'LviE tJS — "Motilones" (Macoa, i. e., Chake) musical instruments and fire- 
making. Top {left): Man playing a flute. Top (right): Using a fire drill. 
Bottom: Blowing on the sparks to start the fire. (Top {right) after De Booy, 
1918 b; others, Courtesy University Museum, Philadelphia.) 

Plate 69. — "Motilones" Indians. Top {left): Bone platform used by the 
Perija, a "Motilones" subtribe. Human bones are dried in these platforms 
and then thrown into a cave. (Courtesy American Museum of Natural 
History.) Top (right): "Motilones" from Department of Magdalena, Colombia. 
Bottom (left): "Motilones" group from same region. (Courtesy Batista Ven- 
turello.) {Bottom {right): "Motilones" on log-bridge trail. (Courtesy Ameri- 
can Museum of Natural History.) 

Plate 70.— "Motilones" (Macoa, i. e., Chake) Indians. Top {left): Woman 
dressing child's hair. (After De Booy, 1918 b.) Top (right) and Bottom [left): 
Men with bows and arrows. Bottom (right): elderly woman. (Courtesy 
University Museum, Philadelphia. 

^^"^ ; 7 ^«t''«"««" (Macoa, i. e., Chake) Indians of the Sierra de Perija. 

ov Heft): \\arnor with arrows. Top {right): Old man plaving a musical 
bow and youth with panpipes. Botto^n {left): Burial practices, involving the 
disinterring of the remains of a chief. Bottom {right): Woman with a 
basket. (Courtesy Gerard Reichel-Dolmatoff.) 


(for women) were placed close to the corpse, together with beads of a 
reddish quartz, which are frequently found today in the graves, usually 
in a pottery vessel. 

In the houses of the Corbago the Spanish conquerors found heads, 
arms, and legs stufifed with straw. Since war trophies are reported 
nowhere in this area, these remains may have been the deceased of this 

The body of a deceased Chake is kept for 2 days in his hut and then 
taken to an isolated cabin where it is placed on the floor and covered with 
grass. (Formerly the corpse was deposited on a platform (pi. 69, top, 
left).) Food, drinks, and the deceased's weapons are left by the corpse. 
After a month the Indians collect the bones and sew them up in a piece 
of cloth. They carry the bundle to the dance ground while men shoot 
arrows into the air and women pelt each other with liana leaves. They 
drink and dance for 2 or 3 nights during which two of the deceased's 
closest relatives dance and play the flute, carrying the funerary bundle 
on their backs. After the feast the bundle is suspended from the hut 
roof for 2 or 3 years (pi. 71, bottom, left).* If for some reason the bones 
are not available, pieces of wood are substituted. These are painted with 
red figures and bound together. Finally the bones are carried to a cave 
in the mountains. Whoever has touched the bones may not touch food 
with his hands but must use leaves to handle it. He is also prohibited 
from going to the fields, lest he spoil the maize. 


Musical instruments. — Shell trumpets are mentioned among the 
Ch'itarera, the tribes of the Timotean family, and the Chake. The last 
also have side-blown cow-horn trumpets (post-Conquest), bone quenas 
or end flutes with a single stop (pi. 68, top, left), and panpipes (pi. 71, 
top, right) of eight tubes bound with a simple ligature. These Indians 
have a unique type of flute with a lateral air duct placed at right angle 
to the air chamber. The projecting part of the mouthpiece is wound 
around with cotton thread and the rest is covered by a large lump of 
wax (Izikowitz, 1935, p. 375). This contrivance gives it the appearance 
of an ax, hence its name, "the ax flute." Its length is about 1.1 m. (3 feet 
8 inches) and its diameter 5.5 cm. (2.2 inches) (pi. 64, top, left; fig. 67). 

Drums and rattles, reported from the Venezuelan Andes, are unknown 
to the Chake. 

* Some additional details are given by Wavrin (1937, pp. 453-462). Tlie body is forced into a 
fetal position. The mother or wife of the deceased weaves a special blanket in which to carry the 
bones. The woman who crushes the maize for the chicha consumed during the feast of the transport 
of the bones observes chastity. The march to the tomb is preceded by a ceremony in which two men 
play bone flutes while others dance. Women also dance or play panpipes. On the way back from 
the grave, men open a new path in the bush. The bones are kept in the hut only for two days and 
are then carried to an ossuary. 

653334 — 48 25 



FiGXJRE 67. — "Motilones" ax-flute. Cross section of head below. 
Bolinder, 1917, fig. 29, a, b.) 

(Redrawn from 

Dances. — Chakc dances follow a simple pattern : Men dance in pairs, 
each resting his bow or his hand on his partner's shoulder, while they 
walk forward and backward, stamping the ground and singing a monoton- 
ous song. 

Sports and games. — The Lache of different groups, probably local, 
indulged in fist fights, which usually resulted in many casualties. In a 
favorite Chake game boys shoot at each other with arrows tipped with 
corncobs. In another game a ball is caught in a kind of basket affixed to 
the end of a pole. String figures are also popular. 

Alcoholic beverages. — The Chake prepare chicha with young fresh 
maize, which is ground and boiled, then mixed with old chicha to hasten 
the fermentation. They do not add saliva to obtain this result. 

A particularly strong chicha is made of crushed maize wrapped in 
leaves to make small bundles and cooked for about an hour. The maize 
pellets are then dried in the sun until they develop a covering of fungus 
through partial fermentation. The day before the feast the pellets are 
placed in a hollow log, the "kanoa," together with crushed ripe bananas, 
yuca, and sweetpotatoes. Water is poured on this mixture and fermenta- 
tion commences immediately. (De Booy, 1918 b, p. 202; Wavrin, 1937, 
p 456.) 

Stimulants. — Coca was used by the Timotcan tribes. Some Chake 
groups use it today but only for medicinal purposes. In the Venezuelan 
Andes tobacco was and still is consumed in the form of a jellylike prepa- 
ration called mo or chimo. The Chake are passionate smokers. They 
know how to make cigars but prefer to smoke pipes, which consist of a 
clay bowl and a wooden stem and resemble those of stone which have 
been found in the Tairona region. These pipes are manufactured locally. 



The Lache venerated stones, believing that the dead became stones, that 
all stones had originally been men, and that at some future date they 
would turn into men again. They also considered shadows as "gods," 
which the sun gave to men and objects. The "House of the Sun" was 
an important religious center and burial place, not only for the Lache 
but also for many of the Chibcha (Muisca). It was built facing the rising 
sun on the eastern slope of the Andes, facing out over the plains. It 
was evidently visible from a great distance, especially when the sun was 
reflected from the golden objects placed outside it. Inside were many 
suspended strings of beads, sea shells, and chests of gold placed on racks. 
The location of the Lache "House of the Sun" and its place in Chibcha 
culture were similar to those of the Temple and Convent of the Virgin 
of the Sun found to the east of the Chibcha, in the plains farther south 
in Guayupe territory (see p. 385), and to the causeway which is said to 
have descended all the way from the Muisca town of Sogamoso to the 
eastern plains. The latter was built in commemoration of Bochica's dis- 

The tribes of the Venezuelan Andes believed in a supreme being 
(ches), who lived on the highest mountain peaks and in lakes. The 
temples that stood in the middle of every town were places of worship, 
although certain rituals seem to have been performed directly on moun- 
taintops, in caves, etc. Idols were made of cotton thread, fired clay, 
wood, or stone. Offerings consisted of the heads, antlers, or bones of 
deer, balls of cotton thread, small cotton blankets, anthropomorphic 
figures of clay, wood, stone or cotton thread, strings of stone beads of 
many colors or of tiny shell disks, green stones, painted bones, salt, cacao 
beans, cocoa butter which was burned in tripod censers, and the flesh 
of deer killed and burned within the temple. 

The most famous temple in the Venezuelan Andes was devoted to a 
female deity called Icaque. Located in Escuque, it was a place of pil- 
grimage for people from far and wide. The building consisted of three 
parts ("naves"). It contained many figures made of cotton thread and 
filled with oflferings of greenstone beads and tiny shell disks. It also 
had boxes full of bones, semiprecious stones, and a few pieces of guanin 
breastplates. The walls of another temple were covered with skulls. The 
only persons permitted to enter this temple (and probably others as 
well) were priests, who made offerings and communicated with a deity 
from whom they learned about the future. If anyone else entered it the 
earth was expected to tremble and to swallow the trespasser. 

The Jamu sacrificed children to a water god by throwing them into the 
lake. Before planting trees the Miguri celebrated a ceremony at night 
called "the coming down of the ches." This included a mimicry of sow- 


ing and harvesting. In another ceremony the participants held a rattle 
in their left hand and a whip in their right with which they beat each 

After a crushing defeat by the Spaniards the men and women of the 
tribe called Los Valientes committed mass suicide. This, as well as the 
individual suicide of many Aburrd men when the Spaniards were first 
sighted, may be connected with certain ideas regarding the hereafter 
which were found here and there in northwestern South America. 

The religious system of the Chake still remains unknown except for a 
few practices. According to De Booy (1918 b, p. 208), the Macoa be- 
lieve in a supernatural being which they call Kioso. When it thunders 
they look up and say, "God is angry." 

Bolinder (1925, p. 237) speaks of duels fought during drinking bouts, 
when people castigate one another and visitors with bow staves. 

After the maize harvest, men and women dance in separate groups 
until the men suddenly discharge their arrows toward the sky. Often 
the dancers are wounded by the falling arrows. In order to dispel a 
storm, the Indians threaten the clouds with their weapons, make noise, 
dance, and drink. 

Several taboos have been listed. Fire and maize must be kept apart; 
for this reason nobody may cross a maize field while smoking, and maize 
is never roasted. Nobody may eat the game he has killed, lest his marks- 
manship deteriorate. 


"Motilones" myths recorded by Wavrin (1937, pp. 600-603) come 
either from the Chake or the Mape. At the beginning of the world there 
existed four murderous giants who were invulnerable. Finally, having 
committed incest and lost their power, they could be slain by men. 
Yuca was owned by Zamuro, the black vulture. It was stolen by the 
Vulture's son-in-law. Fire was owned by Toad and was stolen by Stars, 
who put it into several kinds of wood. Sun is a cannibal who attempts to 
devour a man whom Moon saves. Moon's arrows are snakes. 


In the Venezuelan Andes the year was divided into lunar months. When 
necessary, as in the case of the restrictions imposed upon widows and 
widowers, the months were counted by knots in a string. 


Aguado, 1916-17; Bolinder, 1917, 1925, 1937; Castellanos, 1874; De Booy, 1918 a, 

1918 b; Ernst, 1887 a, 1887 b; Febres Cordero, L., 1918; Grubb, 1927; Ibi, 1919 a, 

1919 b; Izikowitz, 1937; Jahn, 1927; Nicholas, 1901; Oviedo y Valdes, 1851-55; 
Robledo, 1864; Simon, 1882-92; Wavrin, 1937. 


By John M. Armstrong and Alfred Metraux 


The Goajira Peninsula, projecting as part of Colombia northward into 
ihe Caribbean Sea, contains an area of about 5,000 square miles, bordered 
on the east by the Gulf of Venezuela. The broad level plain known as 
Lower Goajira occupies the base of the peninsula, while the northern 
extremity is known as Upper Goajira and is characterized by three 
distinct ranges of hills. These hills have a maximum height of 2,600 feet 
(about 780 m.) and are separated from each other by two broad plains 
which run from sea to sea. The country is dry and infertile, the vegeta- 
tion consisting of divi-divi, cactus, pricklypear, and other xerophitic plants. 
Even these are absent where bare rock and stone slides preclude vegeta- 
tion. Rivers are almost nonexistent, the country being cut in all directions 
by shallow, dry, sandy water courses which drain off rain as it falls. In 
the south and west, on the treeless prairies or savannas, the land is more 
hospitable. Here the Indians do most of their stock raising. 


The pastoral Goajiro who inhabit this peninsula (map 6) differ pro- 
foundly from the agricultural forest-dwelling Motilones and Arhnaco to 
the south. Juan de Castellanos, in his "Elegias de los Varones Ilustres" 
(1874), is the first to allude to these Indians, though he calls them Cosina. 
He states that in his time, about 1550, cattle were already abundant in 
the area. It seems that the adoption of pastoral life by the Goajiro took 
place soon after the Spanish settlement of that part of the continent. The 
name Goajiro was, however, already known in the 16th century and was 
applied first by Pedro Simon (1882-92). The first reliable ethnographic 
information about the Goajiro goes back to Jose Nicolas de la Rosa 
(Nicholas, 1901) and Antonio Julian, who both visited these Indians in 
the 18th century. Jahn (1927, pp. 119-136) has gathered the few data 
concerning the Goajiro which he found in the early literature. A short 
summary of the first description of these Indians is given by Hernandez 
de Alba (1936, pp. 8-12). 



During the Colonial Period, the Goajiro were hostile toward the Span- 
iards. After 1830, however, as a result of better treatment from the Whites, 
thanks in part to the efforts of Juan MacPherson, they become more 
friendly. Present authorities in the Goajiro region merely regulate frontier 

The attempts by the Capuchin Fathers to alter their ways of life have 
been unsuccessful. Except for the thin Catholic veneer, noticeable in 
baptismal rites and Spanish names, Goajiro social life seems to have been 
little affected by centuries of contact with Hispanic culture. Foreign in- 
fluence is more apparent materially in iron implements, utensils, guns, 
textiles, and ornaments. All the domestic animals are of Spanish origin. 

As a result of tuberculosis, smallpox, and venereal disease, the Goajiro 
are gradually dying out, and the population estimates found in the litera- 
ture have become smaller and smaller, the most recent indicating a scant 


The Goajiro are usually described as aggressive and untrustworthy, of 
medium or small stature (cf. J. A. Mason, 1926, pp. 39, 52), copper 
colored, with jet-black hair, dark eyes rather obliquely set, a broad and 
blunt nose, and a large mouth (pi. 72, bottom, right). Within the tribes 
there are physical differences which seem to correspond with social status, 
the lower classes being smaller and more Indian in appearance, while 
those of higher rank are more often of a greater stature, with curlier hair 
and larger noses. 


The Goajiro language belongs to the Arawakan family. There is, how- 
ever, no good analysis of it. A grammar, "replete with errors" according 
to Simons, was published by Rafael Caledon in 1878. Various word lists 
have been published from time to time. 



Farming. — The Goajiro have a poor opinion of agriculture, and only 
the poorer sibs practice it. The one fertile part of the peninsula is near 
Punta Espada. Here the land is well cultivated, and plantains, maguey, 
onions, coca, sugarcane, and grain are grown. Tobacco, bananas, maize, 
gourds, manioc, sweetpotatoes, millet, beans, and watermelons also are 
raised. Those who own cattle grow only small patches of quick-maturing 
corn for the purpose of making chicha beer. 

Hunting, fishing, and gathering. — Hunting, fishing, and gathering 
occupy a minor place. Deer, armadillos, land tortoises, and rabbits are 


the chief game. The Goajiro who Hve near the coast sometimes catch 
fish (with hook and Une), lobsters, moUusks, and crabs. 

Cattle raising. — The Goajiro are primarily nomadic cattle raisers and, 
consequently, depend upon the water supply. In the rainy season they 
seek natural depressions, which they sometimes enlarge artificially, where 
the water may gather. In case of drought they wander toward the sea, 
where wells 30 to 40 feet (9 to 12 m.) deep are dug. 

Besides cattle the Goajiro keep sheep, goats, horses (pi. 72, bottom, 
left), mules, pigs, and domestic fowls, which they take with them wherever 
they go. An estimate gives them 100,000 cattle, 200,000 sheep and goats, 
20,000 horses and mules, and 30,000 donkeys. As cattle are a measure 
of wealth, the Indians are reluctant to kill them for food, but they utilize 
the milk or export the animals to Curasao and Aruba in exchange for 
textiles and corn. Each tribe has its own cattle brand, and the annual 
round-up and branding is an occasion for great festivities. Horse races 
and other sports take place, and large quantities of food and drink are 

Food preparation. — Goajiro diet consists almost entirely of meat and 
milk products. Goats and sheep are killed every day or two for meat, 
and the milk of the cows is made into butter and cheese. This diet is 
supplemented by yuca, cactus fruit, sugar, rice, and plantains, the last 
three obtained from Colombian and Venezuelan traders in exchange for 
skins. Meat that is not immediately consumed is suspended from tall 
poles, and skins are pegged to the ground and salted in preparation for 
sale. Butter is made by stirring the cream with a fluted stick in a cala- 
bash or wooden bucket. To make cheese, rennet is added to skimmed 
milk in a trough, and the curds are put in a primitive wooden cheese 
press, which is weighted with a heavy rock. 


Although the Goajiro are of a common origin, they are divided into 
sibs ("castes" or "tribes"), each living within a rather limited area 
(Simons, 1885, p. 796). The sibs are split into local groups, which 
occupy extended villages or rancherias, each with 2 to 50 houses 
(ranchos) and 10 to 250 or more Indians. Houses are always within 
gunshot distance of one another and so disposed that surprise attacks 
would be difficult. If a village is at all permanent, a protective cactus 
hedge surrounds it. 

Goajiro nomadism makes elaborate houses unnecessary. Dwellings 
are mere lean-tos, arbors, and temporary gabled roofs supported on poles. 
Thatch is made from the core of the cactus, split lengthwise. Rough 
tables, chairs with rawhide seats, and benches are often used. The ham- 
mock is always present. House walls are often lacking, but a corner 
of the hut may be closed off for a girl's puberty seclusion. When mi- 


grating from one locality to another the Goajiro generally dismantle their 
houses and take them along, piling the poles and thatch on the backs 
of burros. Sometimes, however, they leave them for their own or some- 
one else's use in the future. 


Goajiro dress has changed little since the time of Nicolas de la Rosa 
(18th century). Men normally wear only a breechcloth, a necklace,